In the Talk Back panel, which closes out the convention annually and where attendees can ask Comic-Con International officials questions and offer feedback, a fan asked if the convention would be returning to Anaheim next year.
And the answer, it turns out, is no — likely due to planned construction to the Anaheim Convention Center and its expansion, which breaks ground in October. Instead, it will be moving to Los Angeles, specifically to the Los Angeles Convention Center. No word on dates yet, though unofficially, we’ve heard Easter weekend is likely again.
The expansion, the center’s seventh, is scheduled to commence this Spring, with a tentative completion date of 2017. Estimated to cost $190 Million, the city has authorized the selling of up to $300 Million in bonds. As with many such expansions (including San Diego), it is because of big shows contemplating moving elsewhere. In this particular locale, the National Association of Music Merchants (96K attendees) and Natural Products Expo West (60K). The annual $15 Million payment would be financed by a special 2 percent hotel tax on nearby hotels. Of course, a possible taxpayer lawsuit is possible/probable.
The project, sited to the east of the arena and north of the Hilton, on the northern edge of the convention center, will produce two floors, each with 100,000 square feet of exhibition space, with the top floor being column-free. (By comparison, Hall H in San Diego is 64,842 square feet.) In addition to 1400 parking spaces, there will also be a connecting bridge to the existing convention center.
Here’s a video showcasing the architecture:
(Nice touch with the Disneyland fireworks!)
Where does this place Anaheim on the big list of convention centers? Well, it’s already the largest on the West Coast. Total space, it would tie with New York City and Houston for 13th place. By exhibition space, totaling 1.015 Million square feet, it ranks…eleventh?
The Los Angeles Convention Center is about 100,000 square feet smaller, but WonderCon only used 524292, square feet of exhibition space this year (Halls B-D, and half of Hall B was used for the “stockyards” queue hall), so there should be plenty of space for exhibits in L.A. WonderCon has experience with changing locations, as this will be the fourth city to host the event, which started in Oakland in 1987 before moving to the Moscone Center in San Francisco in 2003. (It was the renovation of the Moscone which forced WonderCon to move to Anaheim in 2012.)
As for the reason(s) for moving…well, NAMM, which is even bigger than WonderCon (the meeting rooms on the Second and Third Floors are utilized as exhibition space!) is scheduled to return to Anaheim in January 2017, so construction might not be the reason. It won’t affect the building that already exists, as the site under construction is a parking lot to the north of the Hilton hotel. The convention center calendar shows nothing scheduled for March or April 2016, so space appears to be available.
More probable? CCI is using this to test the market (much like they used the construction at the Moscone to move to Anaheim). When cities first began courting CCI:SD in 2010, it was reported that Los Angeles was offering events free rental of the center. If this is true, that’s another important consideration. While the rental for the San Diego Convention Center would have been $410,850 in 2014, CCI paid a discounted rate of $150,000. Of course, CCI isn’t hurting for money (approximately $12 Million in reserve), and each WonderCon show seems to not only be profitable, but expanding as well. (This year, the entire Anaheim Convention Center was reserved, although Halls A and E were not utilized.) If they can fill the entire building at Anaheim, they can do the same in L.A., and get free rent, which would cover any potential loses. If it’s a successful show, then CCI brands it and adds it to their calendar (Fall?). If it’s a colossal failure (unlikely) or not as lucrative as hoped, then CCI can return to Anaheim with little damage to their brand, allowing the media and Internet commentators to recycle the current criticisms about the center downtown. (But consider that Anime Expo has been located in L.A. since 2008.)
Of note, CCI has trademarked the terms “Los Angeles Comic-Con”, “Anaheim Comic-Con”, and “San Francisco Comic-Con”, back when cities were courting CCI:SD. Given the first two, might we see an event in San Francisco as well?
A cautionary note before you start reacting… read this post from 2011, especially the comments! A bit funny, in retrospect…
UPDATE! Beat operative Nick Esky attended the Talk Back panel, and reports that the reason for the move is that Anaheim did not have dates available. Which raises the question… an annual show… it’s successful… they can’t plan dates two-three years in advance? (Other non-profits can schedule large events for the next decade…) Or was it something else? Costs? Does it hurt the brand to see it constantly on the move?