Is Comic Con Leaving San Diego?

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The nation’s foremost pop culture extravaganza has landed and left.  The 125,000 devoted fans of the Comic Con International that were expected to flood the Downtown San Diego Convention Center through July 22nd and July 25th (A preview was held on the 21st for a selected few) made their mark.  However, local businesses, and many fans around the world are left to ponder on whether or not this San Diego based event will continue to call the finest city its home. 

The late Sheldon ‘Shel’ Dorf was the founder of the San Diego Comic Com.  He gave birth to this masterpiece 41 years ago, along with Alert Books owner Ken Krueger, and a handful of teenagers committed to the idea of bringing together the professionals behind the development of comic books, its media, and its fans.  “We had no idea it would become this big…,” Dorf told the San Diego Union Tribune in a 2006 interview. 

The U.S. Grant was the first to host the 445 pioneers who attended the original 2 part event in 1970, then known by its birth name, The Golden State Comic Con.

Throughout the years, the event relocated to various venues in San Diego, and in 1991 it finally landed in its current location, the Downtown Convention Center.  Since, the event has been consistent in attracting and hosting more and more fans.  In 1991, the Comic Con brought together 15,000 spectators, compared to 2009’s 125,000 plus the 9000 that come to San Diego to put on the show.

Researchers believed that the economical boost brought by the Comic Con was between 40 to 60 million dollars.  However, a more official independent study was conducted on how much financial impact the event was actually having on San Diego’s economy, and the results were mind-boggling to say the least.  “The 125,000 fanatics are not only coloring the Downtown streets with various forms of artistic expression comprised of extravagant Chewbacca suits, and these neck-snapping Wonder Women outfits, but they are also injecting a 163 million dollar booster shot into our businesses,” explained Paul Marino while quenching his thirst at The Funky Garcia.  Mr. Marino has lived in Downtown for over 11 years, and he is the CEO of Marino Investments.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this fascinating anomaly.  “It’s probably going to leave us, it’s just become way too media based,” said Sam Cox in a conversation pertaining to the future of the Comic Con.  Mr. Cox is a 59 year old artist, and a life long resident of San Diego.   “In the time that I’ve been attending on and off, I think it’s just become big, and I think it’s outgrown us,” said his partner James Hendricks who was sitting across the coffee table.   The contract between the San Diego Convention Center and the Comic Con expires in 2012.

Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas are showing a deep interest in the San Diego International Comic Con.  Still, San Diego is not going out without a fight.  It is to the clash of the titans for this once humble Golden State Comic Con.  And according to the latest research ‘gold’ is the key term here.  More real-estate is needed for the event to stay in its city of birth, and San Diego is jumping through hoops to keep its child.  Unfortunately, it’s all grown up, and the 125 thousand fanatics have been filling the Convention Center to capacity the last 5 years. In fact, tickets this year were completely sold out since March, over 4 months prior to the event.

What happens next?  Well, Jerry Sanders and the Port District members have put into plan an expansion for the Convention Center.  The current design for the expansion will make available 225,000 more square feet of exhibit space, add a total of 400,000 square feet, and it includes a 57 foot high pedestrian walkway that will connect 4th Ave to both the Convention Center, and to the bay.  The price tag on this shindig is yet to be determined, but it is believed to be a 753 million dollar idea.  The new design also has a hotel that will be erected in order to ease the need for more rooms.  If everything goes as planned, San Diego residents may see the Comic Con take place in a 1.2 million square foot Convention Center by 2015.

“No, I don’t think it’s going anywhere.  Well, I hope it doesn’t.  I mean think about it.  There’s the bridge that’s already being built, you know the one that connects the new Hilton Hotel to the ball park, that should be finished soon.  Then their supposed to make the convention center even larger, with a bridge of its own, and they’re adding a hotel onsite!  Oh, let’s not forget the Chargers’ Stadium that’s probably being built across the street from the Padres’ parking lot.  Now if you ask me, they should just use the Padres’ Ball Park for now,”responded John Lopez, a bicycle taxi driver, when asked if he thought the Comic Con would leave San Diego.

Well, when you consider the points John Lopez brought up in his statement; it becomes very intriguing to consider the related numbers.  If the main obstacle to overcome here is about space, one can consider the 42,400 capacity of Padres’ Petco Park, the 400,000 square feet being added at the convention center, and the 60,000 – 70,000 capacity of the future Charger’s stadium, and the obstacle for more space the San Diego event faces can be overcome.  Still, let us simply say that all of these new projects do erect, and the Comic Con does expand, where are all these Green Hornet, Green Lantern fans going to sleep?

Whether or not the Darthvader, Wolverine, and Princess Leia look-a-likes are redirected to another city is yet to be determined.  San Diego has but two choices, build and expand its port, or give up 163 million badly needed dollars.  The Comic Con spokesperson David Glanzer recently stated that the decision to move or not to move would be made sometime after the convention is over.  The only other question left to be answered is: how much is actually spent to put on the comic con extravaganza?  One thing is certain, replacing the Comic Con and the impact it has will take a great deal of planning.  However, one cannot take lightly what the woman in the homemade Avatar costume shouted out, “if they build it, we will come!” 

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