Comic-Con, Attendance, and the Convention Center

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Photo Tom Abbott

Soon San Diegans will be faced with the question. Should the Convention Center be expanded? This is a critical question since the center is an important part of the regional economy. Chiefly, San Diego Comicon has maxed out

According to Rita De la Fuente at the Convention Center:

Comic-Con has been maxed out at 135,000 attendees for the past few years, based on the badging numbers provided by Comic-Con. For the second year, we have worked with the City of San Diego and the Port of San Diego to close Harbor Drive, which has provided a better pedestrian experience on the front drive of the convention center, and alleviated the crowds in the lobby.

We also asked about the experience in the exhibit hall, which felt less crowded. She added on this line that

…every year there are more off-site activations that take people into the Gaslamp Quarter and other destinations. There is also the programming inside the ballrooms and Hall H that pull thousands from the lobby floors.

But the key point is that Comic-Con has maxed the center. There are other large conventions that come to the city. Among them medical conventions. There is also the Auto Show, which both closes and opens the year for the center.

The stats for the center are as follows:

* 615,701 sq. ft. of total exhibit space
* 525,701 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space
* 90,000 sq. ft. Sails Pavilion — exhibit, reception, special event space
* Two — 40,000 sq. ft. ballrooms
* 204,114 sq. ft. of overall meeting space
* 72 meeting rooms
* 284,494 sq. ft. of pre-function, lobby, and registration space

The center makes the top ten list. However, in order to keep Comic-Con beyond 2024, and attract more larger shows, it needs to grow. So the city voters will have to choose. Expand the center, and make it even more competitive, or not. It is a question on a return on investment since it will not be precisely cheap.

The land will be on the fifth street landing. It is five acres, and if not used for the center, it will go for hotel development. This will be on the ballot in 2020 and will include a raise in the transient occupancy tax. This will not just fund the convention center expansion, but also services for the homeless, as well as road repairs.

This will be in a crowded ballot. However, it points to another turning point in San Diego’s economy that has greatly diversified from the days it was a military town. The center complements well the technology growth in the city. It also places the city on the map as a prime tourist and business destination.

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