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Bam! Three more cities trade punches for Comic-Con

18 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Monday, July 13, 2009

Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas are trading punches with San Diego in the fight for Comic-Con, the mega-entertainment event that currently calls San Diego home.

Managers from the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau (LACVB), Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (AOCVCB) and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) all confirmed they have been actively pursuing Comic-Con International’s organizers to possibly relocate to their cities.

“There’s no question that we have pursued that business,” said Michael Krouse, senior vice president sales at LACVB. “We would just be foolish not to. It’s a perfect piece of business for us.”

“We continue to be in talks with the Comic-Con staff,” said Elaine Cali, a spokesperson for Anaheim/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

“We have had conversations with management of Comic-Con,” said Jeremy Handel, a spokesperson for LVCVA.

But all three said nothing concrete had come of talks with Comic-Con.

San Diego continues to win this year’s round. Comic-Con takes place at the San Diego Convention Center this year from July 23-26, with a sold-out crowd of 126,000 participants. But space is limited and the City is pushing to expand (See related story: Pow! San Diego fights for Comic-Con).

By contract, the San Diego Convention Center has the homegrown event locked in through 2012. After that, it’s anyone’s game.

That’s why other cities have been duking it out for the lucrative event, and continue to maintain contact each year.

Convention managers at Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas boast a mixed bag of advantages over San Diego:
— larger convention facilities
— more seating halls
— greater parking capacity
— more hotel selection
— competitive prices.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles managers hosted Comic-Con organizers for a tour of the facilities in late 2007, said Krouse. Since then, LACVB has had a dedicated manager for the account and staff members who visit the San Diego event each year.

“We have never stopped pursuing them,” Krouse said.

Krouse said Los Angeles’ main advantage is space, allowing Comic-Con to grow far beyond its current limits in San Diego.

Los Angeles’ larger capacity

The area surrounding the convention center, called L.A. Live, spans 27 acres. The one-block radius of the convention center also creates a “campus” for convention-goers. Krouse said the total capacity would enable Comic-Con to add up to 20,000 more attendees than at the San Diego Convention Center.

The Los Angeles facilities include:

— L.A. Convention Center, with 1 million square feet

— Staples Center, a 20,000-seat hall where the Michael Jackson memorial was held

— Nokia Theater, a 7100-seat hall where American Idol finals take place

— Nokia Plaza, an outdoor area which holds up to 40,000 people, for events such as the Grammy and Emmy award ceremonies

— Parking capacity of 20,000 within an eight-minute walk

— A large dining district

— A chain of 14 cinema halls

— Hotels with 5,000 rooms within eight blocks

— Hotels with about 94,000 rooms in Los Angeles County

— An underground subway linking to outlying areas

“We would allow them the ability to expand,” Krouse said. “Being the entertainment capital of the world, that’s a big selling benefit to an organization like Comic-Con.”


Los Angeles lower price

The price for all this?

“$1,000 for the entire length of the stay,” Krouse said.

Huh?

“The convention center discount policy allows us to provide the convention center for $1,000,” he said.

The caveat: “They have to produce sleeping rooms,” Krouse said. The city allows the convention center to sell at a deep discount for events that promise a large number of hotel guests.

“It’s all about tax revenue,” Krouse said. “It presents a great business opportunity for us from a tax point of view.”

Hotel room tax in Los Angeles is 14 percent — compared to San Diego’s 10.5 percent. Consumer sales tax is 9.75 percent — 1.50 percent more than the State sales tax, and 2 percent higher than San Diego’s 7.75 percent.

Krouse noted that Comic-Con pays “significantly more” rent at the San Diego Convention Center.

Los Angeles related events

As more Hollywood producers launch movies at Comic-Con, the event has grown in importance to the entertainment industry as a whole. This makes Los Angeles an ideal location, said Krouse.

In addition, Los Angeles also has the advantage of hosting other synergistic events, said Krouse. These include:

— Anime Expo, a convention that draws 50,000 attendees, produced by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation

— E3 Expo, an event attracting 50,000 participants, for the entertainment and gaming software industry.

“They all have crossover because they do gaming related to anime, gaming related to software,” said Krouse. “That’s why the entertainment connection is so important to these shows.”


Las Vegas

Comic-Con has also considered Las Vegas as a possible new location, said Handel, an LACVA spokesperson. Comic-Con organizers contacted LACVA to find out about possibilities in summer 2008, and LACVA sent a manager to visit the San Diego event that year.

LACVA also has a sales manager assigned to the account, with some discussion continuing in winter 2008, said Handel. But so far, “there has been no formal development,” he said.

Las Vegas has the capacity and experience for Comic-Con to grow, said Handel.

Las Vegas facilities

The City’s facilities include:

— Las Vegas Convention Center, with 2 million square feet

— Sands Expo and Convention Center, with 1.5 million square feet

— Mandalay Bay Convention Center, with 1.5 million square feet

— Four-mile hotel corridor with numerous ballrooms, meetings and theater space.

— Citywide exhibition and meeting space of 10 million square feet

— Hotel rooms with 140,000 units citywide

Tax rates in Las Vegas are lower than Los Angeles, though still higher than San Diego. The hotel tax is 12 percent; sales tax is 8.1 percent.

The convention center is also more expensive. At 29 cents per square foot, it costs $580,000 per day to rent out the entire two-million-square-foot center. That’s $2.32 million for four days.

“We’re a public facility, so we don’t have the opportunity to negotiate the rates,” said Handel. But private convention centers can negotiate, he added.

Las Vegas trade show experience

Las Vegas also has experience in hosting trade shows, said Handel. The city ranks number one in number of trade shows per year in the U.S., including many broadcast and magic industry shows, he said.

“We’re the trade show capital of the world,” Handel said.

The Las Vegas visitors’ bureau has maintained contact with Comic-Con.

“It would be a great experience for Las Vegas, as well as Comic-Con to bring in a show of that size and that nature,” Handel said.

Anaheim

The Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County has been discussion with Comic-Con for more than a decade, said Elaine Cali, a spokesperson for AOCVCB.

“It’s been an ongoing conversation,” she said.

Although the convention square footage is large — 1.6 million square feet — the number of attendees is limited to 90,000 over four days, smaller than the San Diego Convention Center. The number of hotel rooms in the county is also comparable to San Diego — 55,000.

One of the advantages of Anaheim is the variety of hotel price points for visitors – ranging from family-affordable to deluxe accommodations, said Cali.

L.A. also had this advantage. In contrast, San Diego visitors tend to have fewer options for affordable hotel rooms, Krouse said.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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