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The San Diego Union-Tribune has a well-researched look at the Comic-con from the locals viewpoint by Peter Rowe with lots of numbers, and it’s not just interesting because we’re quoted: the city and the convention have always had a rather…guarded relationship. This piece gives it a bit of perspective:

While the Con’s impact is global, it’s San Diego’s single largest convention, drawing more than 100,000 people who will rent hotel rooms, order meals and buy bagfuls of whatnots, all to the tune of $32 million. At least.

“The revenue is substantially, substantially underrated,” said Steven Johnson, the Convention Center’s vice president for public affairs. “We have yet to grasp how to get our hands around the economic impact of the convention.”


Although we know how glitzy and hectic the Con is, the city still considers it secondary to Health Information Managers:

Despite high rollers like Apatoff, the Con has an old reputation as a cheapskate confab. On paper, it’s still an economic underperformer. Compare it with the Health Information Management Systems Society, which held a convention here in February. Con-goers outnumber this group 4-to-1, but the HIMSS crowd laid out $82 million, 2½ times what Con-goers are expected to spend.

But the Convention Center vice president insists that the Con’s numbers are artificially low. Most of the HIMSS attendees are members of the society who book their hotel through their organization. Most Con attendees are – well, who knows? Again, there hasn’t been a survey in 10 years. Moreover, they’re an independent lot.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Yeesh, Rowe just keeps going back to the well that tells me I’m a cheap, unwashed, no-class geek in a costume. He keeps trotting out the stereotype, but has nothing to back it up on.
    All of his expert-level interviews keep saying the same stuff, that we’re booking up the high-end restuarants, that we’re all over the place, and that economic impact of $30-odd million is way, way too low.
    It started to dig into how the numbers are affected by counting through those of us booked through Comic-Con, and actually suggests that we IGNORED that service. Um, didn’t that service more or less sell out in the first day? And did it ever point out the demand changes in hotel prices?
    Out of odd coincedence, my mother-in-law is also running to San Diego for a business meeting. She’s planning on making a 40-minute commute just to keep the trip affordable. That’s a massive sign of the economic impact we have, and it’s completely unmentioned.
    Really, the only part that didn’t stick out as too bent away from fact was the part he interviews you, as you’re disproving his last statement, and he doesn’t have another ‘graph or two after to make another stereotypical statement.

  2. The true impact will be felt when Comic-Con decides to move away from San Diego because the city keeps underestimating it. Any other city would kill to have an event that brings in (a conservative estimate of) $30-odd million in a weekend, and most would help shoulder the financial burden.

    The problem, though, is this: what American cities have big enough convention centers to accomodate Comic-Con International and that can offer all the space for a week? Orlando’s convention center is big enough, especially with the relatively recent opening of additional facilities, and there’s plenty of hotel space nearby, but the center is ALWAYS booked up (MegaCon books their space for three years in advance to avoid problems), plus there is a huge tourist trade for the theme parks competing for the hotels at all times.

    Me, I’d love it if thr Con moved to Orlando – would have loved it even more if they’d moved there before I moved to Pensacola, making it a MUCH longer drive, but it’s still drivable (about 9 hours). But I would bet that MegaCon wouldn’t appreciate it.

    Tampa, perhaps – not sure about the size of the convention hall, but they might be able to spread it out over a few downtown facilities if it’s not big enough. Downtown Tampa is undergoing quite a facelift. And I’d love it ’cause I could stay with family and avoid the hotel expenses. (And in the end, isn’t it all about me?)

    What other cities have the monolithic facilities that Comic-Con would require? Afraid my expertise taps out outside Florida — the music industry conventions I’ve gone to in Austin and NYC weren’t in big enough halls for Comic-Con, but other than those, I’ve never been to an out-of-state convention.

    The other question, of course, is how the industry and the fans would feel about Comic-Con leaving its ancestral home. Would it retain its cache, or would this be an opportunity for, say, Wizard World Chicago or the NYC con to overtake the significance of Comic-Con? Plus, there’s the non-comic book industry side of San Diego to consider, of course. A lot of the mainstream media/movie and TV companies/big name stars do San Diego now, but would that still be the case if the con were farther from L.A.? Granted, they also do Cannes and Sundance (to name two), but they have a cahce that Comic-Con doesn’t have.

  3. The McCormick Place complex in Chicago is about four times bigger than the San Diego complex, based on square footage. And since Chicago just dropped from second to third place of the top cities hosting conventions, I’m sure Chicago would just love to get a con like CCI.

    Notice that San Diego isn’t even in the top ten list of cities hosting conventions: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12499142/

  4. Not sure that barometer works for entertainment-based Cons, as Las Vegas is home to some of the grandest comic con disasters.
    Basically, if you’re putting together a convention for a business of something dull, like dentistry, then yeah, the Vegases and New Yorks of the world are great – because then it’s a big fat vacation on the company till with only the occassional boring lecture and summit.
    But them there big entertaining cons, they provide the entertainment.

  5. I thought the same thing about McCormick Place here in Chicago. They recently completed yet another convention building, and they’re over 2 million sq/ft of space.

    Of course, the big reason the Comic-Con remains in San Diego is the Hollywood connections, I’d think. I’m not sure the producers, actors, and studio people would flock to Chicago like they do just down the coast.

  6. If I remember right, there was some flirtation recently with the idea of moving the Con to the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County… and I can vouch for the fact that the LA Convention Center in downtown LA is plenty big enough for Comicon, and could also really use the booking… however LA has probably an even worse hotel situation than San Diego as far as places close to the convention center go. (And definately a worse situation with regard to walkable restaurants. Plus it’s landlocked, strangled by freeways and a bit depressing.)

    Both of those are closer to Hollywood than San Diego.

    Personally, I hope it never moves from San Diego, as it’s more or less a perfect place (parking and hotels notwithstanding)… a huge convention center in a beautiful part of town right on the marina and across the street from a vibrant and living downtown district of restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.

    If you can get a downtown hotel room, you’re more or less set for a week. Everything is in walking distance, you don’t feel trapped in the convention center as far as food and fun goes, and you can stroll along the water to get some breathing space. Beaches and the zoo are super close.

    I look forward to going as much for the city as for the con. If it moved, I think it would lose quite alot, and I could easily see it plummet in popularity.

    All good things must fade, I guess, but I hope this doesn’t too soon.