Could Comic-Con Leave San Diego?

Comic Con Hall H

Comic-Con and San Diego go hand-in-hand, and have ever since Comic-Con was founded in San Diego in 1970. But Comic-Con has expanded much faster than San Diego has. As anyone who’s waited overnight for a Hall H spot or spent 10 minutes trying to cross Harbor Drive can attest, it feels at times like Comic-Con has outgrown San Diego altogether.

Now, with the current deal between Comic-Con International and the city of San Diego set to expire in 2016, the event is fielding proposals from other cities. Could Comic Con leave San Diego for Los Angeles or Anaheim? Get the latest on the possible Comic-Con move after the jump. 

At present, San Diego is trying to strike a deal to keep Comic-Con in San Diego through 2018. The city’s tourism board remains optimistic, with president Joe Terzi telling the LAT he believes the contract will be signed in the next month or so. Comic-Con is the city’s biggest annual event. Last year, its 130,000 attendees generated $177.8 million for the local economy.

However, San Diego faces some major challenges. The city made plans in 2011 for a $520 million, 225,000-square-foot expansion to the convention center, but they stalled last summer when a state appeals court ruled against the financing plan. Mayor Kevin Faulconer is still looking for another way to finance the expansion. In addition, the San Diego Chargers are threatening to leave for Los Angeles unless they can build a new stadium and convention center downtown.

Comic-Con International plans to stay in Southern California, so Los Angeles and Anaheim are on the top of the list for potential new sites. Anaheim boasts the largest exhibition hall in the region (815,000 square feet versus the San Diego Convention Center’s 615,700), as well as proximity to other tourist attractions like Disneyland. Plus, the city is already familiar to Comic-Con International organizers and many Comic-Con attendees — it’s home to WonderCon, which is put on by the same company.

And Anaheim is working to make itself even more attractive. Construction has already begun on a 200,000-square-foot expansion to the convention center, and nine new hotels will add 1,500 rooms to the city’s current offerings. (At present, there are about 13,000 within a mile of the convention center; San Diego has 11,000.) Plans for a $2.5 million upgrade to the convention center’s free Wi-Fi network are also in place.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has the advantage of being close to Hollywood, where a lot of the studios that come to Comic-Con are based. And it goes without saying that Los Angeles is a popular destination for tourists with or without Comic-Con. Its major downside, however, is its shortage of hotel rooms. Only 5,000 are within walking distance of the convention center, though another 2,000 are under construction.

David Glanzer, a spokesman for Comic-Con International, talked up the organization’s options. “The proposals we’ve received are pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision.”

It’s frankly tough to imagine Comic-Con anywhere but San Diego. The city itself is as much a part of the Comic-Con experience as the panels, the cosplayers, and the booths. The San Diego Convention Center’s spokesman Steven Johnson makes this point, saying, “Attendees have grown to love San Diego as a destination.”

On the other, it might be nice to have a city big enough to actually hold all the people who want to attend Comic-Con. As it is now, tickets sell out in a matter of hours, rooms are distributed via a notoriously complicated lottery system, and it’s quite literally impossible to get through the exhibition floor without elbowing a few strangers. What do you think? Should Comic-Con stay in San Diego?

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