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San Diego sweetens the pot for Con by a cool half mil $$$


Oh, San Diego, how you have changed your tune.

Increasingly serious about keeping what they now admit is tens of millions of dollars in revenue to local businesses, and the glamor and publicity that hosting the world’s biggest entertainment marketing event brings, local businesses are throwing in $500,000 to help pay for hotel shuttles to help the city in its bid to keep Comic-con in San Diego.

The money would come from the $23 million a year the city raises from a 2% hotel room surcharge, and be spread out over five years — provided Comic-Con decide to stay through 2015.

At the urging of the San Diego Convention Center and Mayor Jerry Sanders, the board that runs the nonprofit Tourism Marketing District agreed to budget $100,000 annually over a five-year period for Comic-Con, believing that the worldwide publicity the city gets from the pop culture extravaganza pays dividends in marketing San Diego as a tourist destination.

The financial commitment, made during a special meeting Friday, would cover 2011 and 2012, when San Diego’s contract with Comic-Con International expires, plus 2013 through 2015. It is contingent on convention organizers agreeing to stay put for the three additional years.

The con board has been meeting of late to mull competing offers from Anaheim and Los Angeles, but has yet to reach a decision on where Nerd Prom will be hosted in 2013 — and why should they hurry a decision when the longer they wait, the more the city realizes what a good thing they have and keep sweetening the pot? It’s common sense.

The city was already offering free exhibti space in hotels, a much larger hotel block, and a hotel room price cap of $300 in order to keep the con.

Local businessmen quoted in the piece couldn’t be more excited about hosting Comic-Con, despite past claims that the show was not that lucrative for local business, and other disses.

“This was more a sign of respect,” said Bill Evans, a marketing district board member and executive vice president of Evans Hotels, which owns the Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Catamaran and Bahia resort hotels.

“We know they have a lot of other options out there but this is to say, listen, we want to remain competitive, and history will show the TMD’s efforts will be the winning goal. This is not just about downtown. This convention pushes business to every submarket in the county. I think $100,000 per year is a good buy. At twice the price, it would be a good buy.”

The CCI board is expected to reach a decison in about three weeks.


  1. Considering San Diego has been one big condescending douchebag about Comic-Con up until now I’d make them do something really drastic before I decided to stay.

    Like change the name or something. I mean, money is nice but I’m looking for a little humiliation here.

  2. Interesting that the Mayor has been part of this after being among those who dissed the convention in the past.

    I suspect he knows if Comic-Con goes, he would get some of the blame from local businesses for not stepping up.

  3. $500,000. to pay for hotel shuttles? Still doesn’t solve the major problem—more admissions. Right now, the Con is capped at 125,000 from what I’ve read. It will be years before any additions to the Convention Center are finished. Why don’t they use the old Convention Center too? Maybe stick the guys with boxes of old comics there.

  4. Christian, they should demand the people who work the restaurants in the Gaslamp quarter not insult the attendees as they spend their weekend giving them money.

    Still can’t get over the guy at Dick’s Last Resort going “Come on Jedi’s, come and get some food!” with absolute disdain dripping from his voice.

  5. Maybe they oughta move the non-comics but kinda-sorta-pop-culture-ephemera dealers to the Civic Center. I like that idea a bit more.

    Oh, and Evan, Dick’s for better or worse actively cultivates that attitude with everyone, or at least they have in my experience. Though I haven’t been back in years, since they managed to mysteriously lose my table reservation that I made three weeks before the night in question during SDCC for a group of 16. Go figure.

  6. Unless they changed the name of the convention, I sure as hell wouldn’t move the comic book dealers to some back room.

    And yeah, I’d say a lot of the businesses don’t appreciate us being there. One story I’ll share is last year after a couple days of eating convention crap, I felt like having some real food. I’m a geek, but I’m a geek with money to spend on dinner, so I figured I’d go out and find myself a good steak. After a bit of walking, I decided on The Fleetwood which is several blocks from the convention center. It had some good lighting and wasn’t busy. I walked in and asked for a table that was well lit since I wanted to read some of the things I’d just bought. The hostess looked around the restaurant which was maybe 20% fool, ignored several well lit tables and suggested I sit at the bar. I asked for a table, and she walked to a side area outside. All the tables out there were stacked. I was about to suggest just unstacking one of those, but she turned to me and said let me ask the manager before I could say anything. She went to the manager, told him I wanted a table that was well lit. He also surveyed all the empty tables and suggested I could sit at the bar. I had a lot of bags of geek stuff and a t-shirt with a comicbook character on it, so it was pretty obvious why I was in San Diego. I stood there for a few seconds wondering if they really weren’t going to give me a table. They just stared back, so I said never mind and walked out.

  7. Re: the SD Hotels ponying that $1/2M bribe, er incentive, to keep Comic-Con in San Diego— at least CCI can now take THAT off their operating costs… so what MORE kickbacks, er financial benefits, can they get out of the City of San Diego as the “negotiations” continue??

    (Maybe they can even get a great a deal as REED has with NYC/Javits and Chicago/McCormick?)

    Pass the popcorn.

  8. with new proposals still coming in, presumably, it would be odd that the Con organization would make a decision so quickly (the 3 weeks mentioned).

  9. Oh yeah, Evan… that’s pretty much the schtick for Dick’s Last Resort.

    They’re like that to everyone all year round. Kind of their “thing”, jokingly being rude to customers. Supposed to be all in good fun.

  10. To Randy R: Mayor Sanders has been generally positive toward Comic Con during his tenure. Previous mayors, including the incompetent Dick Murphy, were pretty dismissive of it.

    Also, Dick’s Last Resort’s whole gimmick is their snotty service. I don’t know why that’s a gimmick anyone would build a restaurant/bar around, but that’s the path they’ve chosen.

  11. If CCI:SD is savvy, they will use this new BFF friendship to expand their programming outside of the convention center.

    Perhaps a costume parade in the city, similar to the Village Halloween Parade in NYC.

    Or maybe a “cosplay 10K” for charity.

    Workshops for kids, to encourage the next generation of comics professionals.

    A speaker series at UCSD.

    Can San Diego become Angouleme?

    And one question no one seems to be asking…
    Since the convention center has a limited capacity, why not clone the show and hold it the next month on the East Coast, pulling some of the demand away from San Diego? Orlando has space…

  12. I like all of those ideas, Torsten, but I’m pretty sure that SD as a whole would freak right out over any of them. It’s one thing to keep the madness reined in to downtown, another to spread it willingly to the pristine wonderland of La Jolla, who might or might not eventually get the secession they think they desire.

  13. Here are my random 2 bits…

    I live just outside the Gaslamp in East Village near the Ballpark and I can attest from my relationships with nearby businesses, no other convention brings in the money that SDCC does. EV coffee shops and restaurants NEVER get convention business except for Comic-Con, that’s just how big SDCC is compared to all other conventions that come into San Diego, it’s the only one that is so busy that attendees overflow into areas outside the Gaslamp.

    So 1, the city would be foolish to lose SDCC and $500k over five years is not nearly enough to throw at the con to keep it.

    Second, considering that attendees fill the downtown area so thoroughly I would like to see the convention expand into venues throughout downtown and convert SDCC into a festival. There are plenty of spaces to do such things. Rent out the movie theater on 5th to hold screenings? Temporarily lease the old WonderBread Factory for talks and appearances? Block off streets like SD does for tons of other events so that vendors can setup? As a resident I’m already inconvenienced and annoyed by the number by various festivals like Street Scene every year that seal off downtown’s blocks one more wouldn’t hurt anymore than it already does and surely SDCC’s influx of money and visitors can justify it?

    Trust me, as a resident of the area I’d be far less troubled by con-goers shuffling back and forth by my house than the stoned out music fans that fall asleep in front of my garage door. And never has a con-goer thrown up in my doorway as happens for the majority of Padres’ games.

    Please San Diego, beef up your offer and encourage SDCC to expand to things even greater! I’m a downtown resident and if I have to put up with stuff I already do, surely this is a simple call.

  14. Hey Lorelei + Torsten:

    LOVE your ideas. Wish you worked for CCI, as a fresh perspective is what’s needed to grow it. I’m just extremely surprised, having gone to Nerd Prom for the better part of the past 17 years, it’s the lack of planning for meteoric growth in attendance and media attention that worries me.

    The city of SD never had to work this hard for the CCI business before. That said, Lorelei is dead on in saying city fathers could do A WHOLE LOT BETTER.

    Will CCI take the lowball deal in favor of not moving to LA/Anaheim? Hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me either, given CCI’s reluctance to seriously consider moving before now.

  15. I find not going there to be altogether more satisfying, Tom. And if you have a big party, I recommend Joltin’ Joe’s on…K street? Can’t recall. Anyways, get there early enough and you can seat 10-16 without too much trouble (though the menu’s pretty limited.)

  16. @Lorilei: Bravo to you, for those words and I am in wholehearted agreement. I was stationed in SD before my retirment and attended 06 and 07 (I’m volunteering for ’10) and I used to work at the SDCC as asset security. The events that come into the convention center are big, but nothing on the scope of the “Con”.

    The city can only benefit from sweetening the deal because that money will be recouped quicker than expected and an iconic event can remain in its birthplace. I honestly look forward to coming to SD. I would not attend in LA, Anaheim or LV.

    Downtown does get crowded when the con goers come but they arent unruly and disrespectful and love the vibe, so why would you want go anywhere else.

    Lorelei has awesome suggestions. When I come back to SD, Lorelei, I would be honored to by you and your family dinner. We need more residents with this way of thinking and the future of the “Con” will flourish and the city will continue to benefit. Isnt that what’s important?

  17. CCI: You know, some of those things you said really hurt. I think it’s time we see other people.

    SD: I’m sorry baby. Sometimes I get so mad but it’s just because I love you so much. Here, I bought you this ring.

    CCI: I don’t know.

    LA: Why do you let him treat you like that? You are beautiful and sexy and powerful. I think you are an angel. You deserve better.

    CCI: Hey, woah, woah woah. Mind your own business.

    OC: Can I buy you a drink? I want to treat you like a princess.

    CCI: Umm…

    SD: Let’s get married.

  18. I went to Dick’s once, the first or second year of going to SD, when Dark Horse had their pre-show party there.

    Never gone back since. How is rudeness a positive gimmick? Stupid.

  19. What annoyed me about Dick’s the one time we ate there was that our food seemed to be delayed so they could do their “schtick”. And of course we wanted to get back to the Con as soon as possible…

    The idea of a costume parade is awesome. As a photographer who’s shot there the last several years, the idea is especially enticing. The zombie walk the last couple of years has been fun, but wouldn’t match the pageantry of a costume procession.

  20. Torsten— why not clone the show and hold it the next month on the East Coast?
    I thought SDCC was already cloned for the East Coast: isn’t it called NYCC? Besides, with REED buying up all SDCC-eque offshoots and spin-offs [Anime, Gaming, Toy “Conventions”], I’m guessing it’s only time before that organisation’s POP GROUP comes knocking at the Orlando Convention Center with that idea in mind?

    And Lorelei’s mention of Street Scene
    http://www.street-scene.com/history.html offers a great object lesson on how short-sighted business and political interests can screw up a good thing like Comic-Con: force it out of the place where ‘it grew up in’ for whatever reasons, you’ll quickly miss all the $$$s the event brought to the area—
    and then you’ll be begging it to come back.

    Just replace “music fans” with “comic book nerds”, “roped-off Gaslamp District” with “Convention Center”, and “Lollapolooza/Lilith Fair/Coachella” with
    “WIZARD WORLD/REED POP GROUP” and it’s the same thing…

  21. Torsten: San Diego IS becoming the next Angouleme and over the next decade I’m sure we will see similar things to those you mentioned. As businesses change ownership it tends to become hipper, the same goes for local leaders. As a geek American that has been in downtown SD for a long time, I am incredibly encouraged by the pop cultural integration going on.

    It is true that Street Scene is DEAD, Bummer on that one. It was a major part of bringing peoples attention downtown. It does stand as a lesson on how we should take care of the good things we have.

    And yes, the “disdain” at Dick’s Last Resort is not geekcentric, it happens to the urologists too.

    Lastly, the 20+ million that it brings to town is a very lowball figure. All the bigshots here know it too. The real figure is more like 50+ million. I know of $80,000 worth of private party bookings that happened just on my block alone that weren’t accounted for in the figures.

    The real and easiest solution to getting more bang for buck is attendees. We need to add a couple of days and more single day admissions.

    That, and to come to our burlesque show on the Thurs night of the Con this year.

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