Yesterday’s San Diego Union-Tribune has a front page story by Lori Weisberg entitled Is Comic-Con really leaving San Diego?, and unlike virtually every other story about this that we’ve read and commented on here, this time the folks who run the city of San Diego’s convention and visitor’s bureau appear to have suddenly woken up screaming “HOLY SHIT?!???!!! WE CAN’T LET COMIC-CON GO!!!!!”

It seems the city of Anaheim is making an aggressive move to get Comic-Con when its deal expires in 2012, and this bold wooing has suddenly made San Diego realize that Comic-Con is not so bad after all, and everyone rolls out some “Comic-Con, please don’t go” rhetoric.

The prospect of losing a bonanza worth tens of millions of dollars in local spending each year has persuaded hoteliers to double the number of rooms they commit to Comic-Con and provide free meeting space for a gathering that sells out months in advance and has a long waiting list for exhibitors.

After 2012, the event held each July at the San Diego Convention Center will be free to leave town.

If Comic-Con departs, so would its 126,000 attendees, who fill hotel rooms and boost the bottom line of restaurants, bars and local attractions. The San Diego Convention Center Corp. recently sent a proposal to Comic-Con seeking to extend its contract through 2015.

Can this be the very same SDCCC that keeps insisting that Comic-Con revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to those nephrologists and anesthesiologists and so on? YES, IT CAN!

A task force, made up of some of the tourism industry’s heaviest hitters and officials from the Convention Center Corp., city and the San Diego Unified Port District, is leading an aggressive campaign to remind Comic-Con organizers just how well-loved they are. Whether such overtures are enough to stave off a competing bid from Anaheim is unclear.

We’ve been provided with EXCLUSIVE video from the meetings between city and con officials:

As indicated above, this proposal includes — SAINTS ALIVE — more cheaper hotel rooms! Even the uptight Hyatt is becoming more accommodating:

In response, San Diego’s three waterfront hotels — the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego Marriott and Hilton San Diego Bayfront — have committed to providing roughly 300,000 square feet of their meeting space free of charge in 2013 through 2015. In addition, the Convention Center Corp. is proposing to increase the number of dedicated convention hotel rooms from 7,000 to 14,000 and says it is working to boost the number for this year through 2012.

The 1,600-room Manchester Grand Hyatt, down the street from the convention center, has agreed to boost its 2013-2015 block of Comic-Con rooms from 700 to 1,400, a concession it needed to make in order to hold on to Comic-Con’s business, said Mike Waddill, the hotel’s director of sales.

“We’d be hard-pressed to book a weekend in July that would even come close to the revenues that Comic-Con brings us,” Waddill said. “It would be difficult, if not improbable.”

Comic-Con scholars can only take this as the public manifestation of the greatest sea change yet in the relationship between the city and the Con — in past years, the locals have only begrudgingly acknowledged that the con is more than a parade of weirdos in costumes, rather than an event known worldwide that brings millions of dollars to the city’s coffers.

CCI:SD’s David Glanzer is quoted with mild “Things are not decided” sentiments, but these are without question the kind of moves that have to be made not only to keep the con in San Diego but to keep it bearable for those 126,000 people. Easier access to hotels, more public spaces available, civic concessions to the realities of running the show and making it more logistically feasible: these are things that must happen to keep people from just throwing up their hands, like Mark Verheiden does in this recent post.

As usual, much of the fun from the article comes from reading the thoughts in the comments of cranky locals. Unlike other times we’ve delved into the comments, the popular sentiment this time seems to be keeping Comic-Con and evinces a live-and-let-live attitude towards costumed attendees that has been much lacking in recent years. A representative post:

I don’t attend Comic-con, but I think it would be bad news for San Diego if it were to leave. One thing to keep in mind is that during its four day stay in San Diego, you don’t hear too much news regarding disturbances, drunkenness, fights or any other disruptions that have to involve the police. The attendees in large part are fun loving, role playing harmless geeks, nerds, professionals, and lots of just regular folk letting loose for a couple days of harmless fun. Heck, I think there are probably more arrests for a chargers, raiders game which is a one day event vs the Comic-con convention which is four days. It’s a great Family event and I think it would be a shame if it went elsewhere.

This person even solves the hotel crisis!

Why not just bring some cruise ships here for that week and use them for lodging?

Make the money losing 10th Ave Marine Terminal (which is right next to the Convention Center) into a second cruise ship terminal.

Just four ships would mean anywhere from 4000 to 8000 more rooms available.

Milton Friedman also stopped by:

How’s that hotel and tourism tax doing for you? Once again, you freaking liberals and your tax mentality push yet another money making business away. At least it’s another step toward bankruptcy!

There is a shortage of hotel rooms because of the taxes! Taxes impede growth. Remove the tax and watch the number of rooms grow!

Let’s hope this all works out. Otherwise, San Diego city fathers just might someday be singing a different tune.

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  1. 1) The Anaheim Convention Center is directly south of Disneyland. While this is pretty darn cool, any convention would have to compete with tourists for hotel space. (Unless the hotels guarantee a lot of rooms.) Of course, there are many rooms around the park, some quite cheap. Parking is not a problem, as Angels Field is a short shuttle bus away. The Amtrak and Metrolink station is also located there. (And how cool would it be to hold a Superman event in the Crystal Cathedral?!)

    2) Is the free hotel space just for the Con, or can exhibitors use the space as well? Last year at BookExpo, many large publishers reserved meeting rooms on the lower level, with almost no presence on the trade floors. This allowed them to set their own hours, offer spacious tables for meetings, and limit access. What if DC or Marvel claimed the Hyatt’s Manchester ballroom for something similar? Disney is quite skilled in this sort of thing (Princess Frog at Roseland), and it could even run before or after the normal convention, with timed tickets sold online. Something for the locals who couldn’t buy a Con ticket at the door.

    3) This gives the Con some negotiating power. I suspect that any thoughts of moving the Con outside the confines of the convention center, to expand their educational mission, are now minimized, as they do not need to court public opinion. Comic-Con is a great family event, but it’s difficult for families to attend. (Howabout a special admission for adult and child?) What other events does CCI sponsor in the San Diego area?

    4) Will Hollywood decrease or increase their attendance if the Con moves to Anaheim? Would it be unfortunate if there was less Hollywood involvement?

    5) If CCI moves to Anaheim, will Wizard move to San Diego?

    6) I assume Vegas is not competing due to the fact that they have enough business. Still, it would be cool to have a convention which occupies more than one hotel… Imagine The Strip packed with cosplayers!

  2. “4) Will Hollywood decrease or increase their attendance if the Con moves to Anaheim? Would it be unfortunate if there was less Hollywood involvement?”

    It should move to Anaheim and rename itself “Movie-Con” and let the comics people rebuild a new San Diego Comic Con that is actually for comics. Hollywood has ruined SDCC for comics people.

  3. I find it astounding that an attendee has to walk over sixteen aisles to get to comics on the so-called dealer’s floor at Comic Con. I agree, this has less to do with actual comics every year.
    Industry people go because they have to. It’s all about shilling your product, making connections, anything but enjoying comics.
    Smaller, more focused regional conventions are a more satisfying experience for many people. I elected not to go to SD last year and found myself over $2000 richer for it.
    Let’s face it, SDCC is the only time many of the exhibitors, and possibly some of the attendees, give a rip about comics.

  4. Doesn’t the fact that all this goodwill is only coming out now, during contract renegotion time, only solidify the cynical fact that this city doesn’t care, never cared, and is only in it for the dollars?

    If con organizers really are considering a move, I sincerely hope their final decision is based on who can provide the best overall con experience for people who drive and fly in from all around the country and world. This should take into account everything from convention center layout and hotel location/availability to the full support of all local shops/bars/restaurants/galleries/couriers, even the quality of the airports (and transportation to and from). If it turns out that San Diego is indeed the best location for the con, so be it. But certainly don’t make that choice based on any sort of “loyalty” to the place.

  5. If the con was in Anaheim wouldn’t it just get more crowded with casual attendees. Even more Hollywood/promo folk who will just swing by for the afternoon and take up space away from the fans?
    At least in San Diego there is a bit more of a hurdle, so they have to really to commit to the drive down. But maybe more hotels would open up as a result?

    Bottom line for me: I would miss the atmosphere of San Diego. Anaheim just feels like a giant highway.

  6. The best way to kill a show is to move it. Much of those 126,000 attendees are local people who go to the con every year. Also lets not forget that Sunday is Kids Day or Family Day and there is a huge rise in attendance of locals and kids on that day. As an exhibitor I see it, Sunday is one of my best sales days just for that reason.

    That is what I enjoy about the show, it is a huge mix of people, comic book people, star wars people, anime, twilight, etc. It has not ever just been a show of comic book geeks, never. There has always been a huge emphasis placed on Sci-Fi. I still remember going to see Douglas Adams talk at the con in the 1980’s. And now their is a huge presence of Hollywood genre movies, which last time I looked alot of people enjoy. And still the con is packed with Golden Age Comic artists. There is plenty of room to co exist.

  7. Considering that the organization running CCI is a small and very insular non-profit group — beholden to no one — who really wants to stay in SD NO MATTER WHAT, why shouldn’t city fathers call their bluff? The convention folks have shown nothing but passive interest at best in the press about invitations to relocate to LV or Anaheim, so why do city fathers need to do ANYTHING beyond the minimum?

    Then again, if I were the king of CCI, I would make the convention a traveling show rotating at 3 or 4 venues around the country like the Super Bowl. Imagine holding CCI in Orlando, NYC, LV, Chicago, Boston, Miami or Dallas on a rotating basis along with SD.

    I’d like to have that problem…

  8. Ah Springtime and the once-every-couple-of-years negotiating dance between the city and SDCC to extend their lucrative partnership!

    The puffed-up advances by the wooer, the studied
    nonchalance of the wooed [all the while coquettishly
    batting its eyes at other suitors in the wing]— funny
    how downtown San Diego resembles the Zoo just further up the street at these times! Nothing but show before the expected and inevitable mating is done…

    Like the previous negotiations, I don’t think there’ll be anything new here. The contracts will be signed—
    Anaheim and Vegas boosters will be disappointed— CON haters will spiel their usual spiel— and local SDCC-goers will squee in avoiding having to travel for their annual July Nerd itch! [And there was much rejocing.]

  9. I would hate to see it leave San Diego, but if the city keeps ignoring the convention, then leave San Diego for a city that will appreciate the business the convention gets.

  10. Ed,

    Agreed. Which is why this is much ado about nothing. I used to think CCI being a non-profit was a good thing when I first started going back in 1993 before the whims and potential profits of Hollyweird highjacked it all. I still enjoy going to CCI, to see friends I don’t get a chance to visit with the rest of the year. But, if I were still attending the show as a huge comics fan, I’d look to smaller shows like MOCCA, Heroes or Emerald City for a more enjoyable convention experience.

  11. Love this quote:

    “One thing to keep in mind is that during its four day stay in San Diego, you don’t hear too much news regarding disturbances, drunkenness, fights or any other disruptions that have to involve the police.”

    Because we know those nephrologists and anesthesiologists cause serious trouble when they come to town!

    Give it up SDCC! San Diego’s only interested in your money! They’ll still bad-mouth you when they think you’re not listening!

  12. “(How about a special admission for adult and child?) What other events does CCI sponsor in the San Diego area?”

    CCI DOES have a special admission “for adult and child”– it’s called “free for children under 12, accompanied by an adult”. There also is a reduced cost jr membership, and military get in for the jr rate. Also, industry professionals get in free, along with one guest, and CCI hands out free passes to local schools and charities.

    CCI also sponsors Wondercon (San Franciso area), and APE– a professional convention in Los Angeles. There are other local sci-fi and related conventions in San Diego– not run by CCI; next week-end is Condor Con, in April is an anime con, in the fall, is Conjecture…

  13. While I don’t live in San Diego and certainly don’t know what the locals go through living there. I think, for the con, the best thing would be to make the expansion of the converntion center a priority, then you can worry about how much hotel space and rooms there are, b/c I mean, you could get all the people you want to go down there, but if only a limited number of tickets can be sold, there seems to be no point in making the fuss about all the hotel space, it would seem to me.

  14. CCI also sponsors Wondercon (San Franciso area), and APE– a professional convention in Los Angeles.

    Actually, APE occurs in San Francisco, not Los Angeles. It’s a different venue from WonderCon (Moscone Center for WC, Concourse Exhibition Center for APE), but the same city.

  15. I was in Anaheim for ALA Annual in 2008. As Dave said, it’s pretty much one giant highway with terrible chain restaurants and hotels. If you get a hotel near the convention center it’s still a trek to walk. Car rentals will be most likely be a necessity. I would miss the nice little restaurants and bars and the nice atmosphere of downtown San Diego. If Comic-Con did move here…I’d probably reconsider going every year and perhaps even not go anymore.

  16. I mostly agree with Verheiden. I stopped going for a few years until last year and it wore me out and I was only there a day.

    As I wrote here at the time, I was talking with someone in Aisle 1200-ish at 1230 and needed to get to Artist’s Alley by 100 to pick up a sketch and didn’t make it there in time.

    I love going to San Diego, so a show in Anaheim doesn’t do it for me. I too would welcome a new stripped-down SDCC if Comic-Con leaves town.

  17. I wonder if the business-as-usual dicking around by SD City officials in dealing with CCI is due to the fact that they’re a Non-Profit Organisation: that in those professional Politicos’ eyes, they’re just a bunch of Comic/SF/Movie freaks and geeks who’ve graduated from volunteering at the yearly Con, to now running it for their fellow freaks and geeks— and so are viewed with either a slight distaste or a downright superiority to, when those Convention Center renewal talks comes around every 3rd year or so…

    I find it easy to imagine Glanzer and his CCIBoard being viewed as something like reps from “Father Joe’s Villages” or the “Boys and Girls Club”, or even local Public Library supporters, hands out in supplication before the politicians. IN SPITE OF all the Tourists $$$s the yearly event that goes to feed the City coffers. IN SPITE OF all the positive coverage for the area that the mass of press attending present to the world. IN SPITE OF the proven 40 years of success the event has had in SD.

    I shudder to imagine if CCI was a for-profit,
    corporate business entity like WIZARD WORLD… or REED. Then, I imagine how extraneous “business relationships”
    would factor in the contract negotiations, the synergestic corporate webs ringing with behind-the-scenes
    deal-making with sympatico political interests— and COMIC CON having moved to Vegas or Anaheim or New York
    YEARS ago.

    As it stands, I’m hoping both the City and CCI will do the right thing… and keep “San Diego” and “Comic Con”
    together for a couple more years. (Cause there’s NOTHING
    like feeling the cool Coronado Bay breezes after a couple of long hours on the Exhibit Floor, sitting outside those back steppes in a bright July afternoon, watching the waterfront. Don’t think Anaheim or Vegas will offer the same view.)

  18. My question is: What is CCI doing within the City od San Diego to promote comic books and graphic novels? Not the big conventions which cost money to attend. I’m thinking community outreach… literacy volunteers, school visits, summer workshops, donations to libraries, scholarships,

    If you take away the hubbub of Comic-Con, how visible is CCI in San Diego?

  19. Ed,

    Take that non-profit ‘tude you describe into negotiations with major Hollyweird players for convention space. And those extraneous business relationships you describe that give more dealers room space to major media players at the expense of comics, retailers and creators. Sounds like a for-profit entity to me.

    One of my oldest retailing friends who always did well at CCI stopped showing due to the narrowing space allotted to comics and other friends of his have or are considering bailing out too. Why would someone who spent a week on the road every year trucking comics cross-country to the major “comics” show and make lots and lots of money doing it, stop?

    What’s left is a consumer media show with comics as window dressing but not the main attraction anymore. Glad my wife and I went a few times in the mid 90s before San Diego Comicon became CCI and something else entirely.

  20. I love smaller shows, and I enjoy certain kinds of indy-alt shows when I go to them, but I still had an amazing time last year at CCI. There was one five-hour period where I got to see Mike Mignola draw, Richard Thompson read his work, Darwyn Cooke speak, Pat Oliphant draw in charcoal, Seth do his convention presentation and the great Leonard Starr talk about his reference library. I mean, holy crap. Heck, the time I spent in line was near the writer and huge comics fan Brian Doherty, so even that was fun.

    Except for the fact it’s harder to score a hotel room within walking distance of the show — I was shut out on opening day but still snagged four days at hotel con rates within a half-mile — and the fact that I get way more questions from folks solely interested in the movie track, I don’t feel the impact of the movie stuff at all. The Eisners are pretty much the same if there are teenagers sleeping outside nearby to see Twilight cast members or if there aren’t. I look at those lines maybe once or twice a show and am pretty stunned that anyone would stand in a line that long to see anything let alone the cast of Supernatural (although god bless them), but for me there’s a really nice comics show in there with a lot of people I wouldn’t see otherwise and lot of experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise. The fact that there are different kinds of experiences at places like Heroes Con and TCAF seems to me a great boon, not a vehicle for criticism. So I don’t understand the “at the expense of” criticisms.

    At the same time, I imagine there will come a point where I’m much less likely to want to attend, and that’s okay, too. That would be hastened by a move, but I’m sure they’d find an audience to replace me. I’m already no longer likely to do SPX or a Wizard World show. Such is life. It’s sometimes very hard to imagine a world of comics that doesn’t at all times include us.

  21. Tom,

    Don’t know if you’ve been going to SD longer than I have (pretty steadily since 1993), but I’ve noticed a huge difference since then. One of my fav memories of that first SD show was seeing Jack Kirby from a distance for the last time before he died the following year. He wasn’t unapproachable. You could see him. I can’t imagine bumping into people like hime without their posses.

    Batman Returns had come out the preceding year, so the string of tentpole summer superhero movies were very much in their infancy. Hollyweird hung out with the comics nerds on equal footing with everyone else. Don’t see that so much of that shared camaraderie anymore.

    Like you, I don’t feel the pull of the movie track either, until I read all the movie-related posts after the fact, that dwarf comics news all to heck…