Deja vu: new convention center deal may keep Comic-Con in San Diego

04.09.10 9 years ago

Well that took long enough.  After years of political infighting and broken promises, the City of San Diego and the Port Commission of San Diego approved a deal for a $753 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center Thursday.  What does this mean for entertainment fans?  Besides the implications for the city’s hotel and tourism industry, this is a huge boost for Comic-Con, the popular fanfest that has called the city home for 41 years and has been strung along more than anyone else by assurances of expansion that never occurred.

Over 125,000 fans have flocked to Comic-Con the past few years and the non-profit board that runs the event has been bursting at the seams trying to make everyone happy and still break even without raising prices.  The floor of the convention is completely full limiting the number of exhibitors (there’s a waiting list) and tickets sell out months ahead of time.  The fact that the convention center only has 616,000 square feet of exhibit space is a huge issue.  Because Comic-Con can’t expand they can’t let more people attend which means less revenue for increasing security and production costs.  Are they that desperate for more space?  No, but as this writer would know, powers that be have no problem discussing the possibility of moving the event to other locales.  In fact, a few years ago the LA Convention and Visitors Bureau thought they had a deal with Comic-Con to move it to LA only for the event’s board to decide to remain in San Diego at the last minute.   And history may be repeating itself.

With the contract up in 2012, cities such as Anaheim, Las Vegas and, yet again, Los Angeles with a sparkling new LA Live complex right next to the LA convention center have attempted to court Comic-Con’s business.  The question now is whether Comic-Con can wait five years for the new expansion or will be forced to make a move in the interim. Speaking to The San Diego Union Tribune, longtime director of marketing and public relations David Glanzer noted, “It’s definitely a step in the right direction” and “It could benefit Comic-Con, but more importantly it’s going to benefit the city of San Diego.”

Yes, that’s as honest an answer as you’re going to get out of a Comic-Con rep at this point.

The three other candidates for the Con’s business have offered huge incentives from discounted use of  convention center facilities to more low-rate hotel rooms than San Diego currently offers.  But, the promise of an expanded facility in five years (“if” all the other legal hurdles including the tiny issue of paying for it can be determined) may entice the Comic-Con board to make yet another sentimental decision to stay.  According to are report in Variety, the city is offering to cover more meeting space at nearby hotels if the organization extends the current lease to 2015, but is that enough?

Glanzer told the Tribune he expects a decision on a new lease within the next 30 days.  Could the organization force the city’s hand and move out of town for three years until the convention center expansion is finished?  Would LA or Anaheim be willing to bring the business in for a short, temporary fix?  In this economy, you bet they would.

Needless to say, this new news has made Comic-Con’s upcoming decision curiouser and curiouser. And Hollywood, which has helped transform Comic-Con into a showcase publicity event for both movies and TV, is certainly watching.

For the latest in entertainment news and commentary follow Greogry Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory

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