For the last few years, one of the biggest issues facing Comic-Con International has been the lack of space at the San Diego Convention Center. Comic-Con has greatly expanded in size and spread to the surrounding hotels and baseball stadium, but its visitors have been capped at around 130,000. And that limits the amount of money that Comic-Con can make from its attendees.
To offset that limitation and entice Comic-Con organizers to stay, the San Diego City Council planned to expand the Convention Center at the end of 2014 by using a new hotel tax to pay for it. However, that tax was shot down by the Fourth District Court of Appeal and now the City Council has decided not to appeal the ruling, which effectively kills the expansion for now.
The Hollywood Reporter is reacting to the news with an almost panicked story that suggests that Comic-Con could leave San Diego in favor of Anaheim or Los Angeles. Both L.A. and Anaheim have previously pursued Comic-Con and they will probably do so again in 2016 when Comic-Con’s agreement with San Diego expires.
THR notes that Comic-Con’s other major convention, WonderCon has already settled into Anaheim after many years in San Francisco. But WonderCon is not Comic-Con and it has yet to bring in a truly comparable lineup of talent or anywhere near the crowd of Comic-Con International. If Comic-Con moved to Anaheim, fans would have to compete with tourists going to Disneyland and California Adventures for hotel space in the middle of the summer. That’s not a winning formula.
Los Angeles also has its weaknesses. Its only comparable convention to Comic-Con is the E3 trade show, but the surrounding area of LA Live and the Staples Center don’t offer the same amenities that San Diego brings with Petco Park, the Gaslamp district and several hotels within walking distance. Stan Lee’s Comikaze has been attempting to grow at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but it has a very long way to go before it can compete with Comic-Con for guests or attendance numbers.
Comic-Con’s David Glanzer told THR that “any decision to remain in San Diego has always been based on a variety of issues, including hotel room rates, available meeting space and other concerns, none of which necessarily override the other… [We are] grateful that the mayor, city officials, hoteliers and convention center staff have worked to help mitigate our space concerns and are happy that we have a continuous dialogue with those entities. We hope there will be a solution that allows Comic-Con to stay in San Diego for years to come.”
So could Comic-Con actually move away from San Diego? It’s possible, but not very likely. San Diego may have its problems, but it’s uniquely suited for this event. There’s also the history of the event to consider. San Diego and Comic-Con have been tied together since 1970. That’s not a connection that will be easily broken.
And if Comic-Con ever does move away from San Diego, another company (probably Wizard World) would likely swoop in and try to fill the void. For that reason alone, I’d say that Comic-Con isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.