How To Repair San Diego Comic Con Before 2018
San Diego itself is a lovely spot for taking in the perfect weather, the ocean air, the friendly people and the great food. When you add the world’s largest pop culture convention, it becomes less of a vacation and more of an achievement you must unlock in the game of geek life.
Each year, more people attend and the growing criticism of how things are done overtake the good just a little more. There are a few simple modifications that could make the convention a smoother week and do away with line-jumping, overcrowding and disappointment. These are simply suggestions that I’ve thought of over the past few visits, as I have seen the numbers grow to a point that it’s bordering on dangerous.
1, End the “Hall H” monopoly on big movie events.
To do this, have three big events at once. Petco has seating that is not being used. The Padres are usually 25 games out of first place at this time every year. Petco Park is an offsite giant. At the same time SDCC is serving up a large event at Hall H, have an equally large event at Petco and an outdoor event similar to the Star Trek movie premiere of 2016, making use of the area behind the convention center that was well-used previously.
By dividing the demand of the crowd into three separate locations, you have 6,500 people attending Hall H, 10,000 attending Petco and 2,000 attending the area behind the convention center. Between that and Ballroom 20, you have accommodated nearly 22,000 fans. To eliminate the remaining issues, make use of the technology already available. Badges can be used with scanners already to get into the convention, itself and a hotel lottery is used to choose hotels before the convention. Why not use an advanced lottery, where attendees choose their preference for big events and a lottery determines seating, which eliminates line issues completely. This eliminates line skippers (becoming a bigger issue) and phony wristbands.
Have a standby line that caps at 1,000 for the remaining seats, or for people who don’t show up. With multiple large events at once, this gives goers a choice, a backup choice, then another chance with the standby line. There are too many things that can go wrong with people sleeping on-site in line for 24-36 hours. SDCC will eventually regret allowing it to happen.
2. Make better use of offsite and surrounding locations.
For years, congestion on the floor has brought us to the point that is no longer possible to even make purchases without being told to move by a dozen people. There has to be a cutback on the number of booths on the actual convention floor. There should be an offsite campus in one of the nearest hotels that allow for the larger, non-sales related, promotional booths, such as signings. About 1/5 of the booths on the floor should be removed and replaced with empty space. There should be room to walk and enjoy the convention without a situation of overcrowding and misery. How long before one of the many people who pass-out every year end up dead or trampled?
There is not a single section of the entire campus and offsite area that does not attract thousands of people per hour. There are more than enough customers, viewers, attractions and retailers to go around outside of the main convention floor and offsite. There is no reason to have a booth that is ticketed for signings, with nothing to sell or give away, stationed on the convention floor. Only a handful of attendees can even enjoy what you’re offering and you’re simply taking up space.
We’ve been told for far too long that an expansion is in the works. Since a large portion of San Diego’s economy comes from the yearly conventions that take place in the Gaslamp District, it’s time for San Diego to make good on that promise and get it done. San Diego recently had the contract renewed and now it’s time to earn the money they’ll receive by giving us the facility fans have already paid for many times over in the past 40 years.
4. A basic working knowledge of why you’re there.
Hire security that know what they’re doing, with communication skills and a basic understanding of what’s going on. As a member of the press, I shouldn’t have to explain to a member of security that Mark Hamill is permitted to do whatever the heck he wants to do and go wherever he wants to go without explaining it to anyone. “He’s the reason you have a job today, Mr. 18 year old security guard who’s never seen Star Wars.”
I also shouldn’t have to go to 6 different locations to get a simple answer on my entrance with a badge that clearly states that I am press, or a professional, or a vendor. Understand that for every minute of my time that is wasted talking to a member of security who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, I’m losing money. This issue becomes bigger every year.
5. Stop with the power trip.
Yes, it’s overwhelming for everyone and always will be. It’s understandable that people are going to be stressed out, particularly workers, volunteers and members of staff and security. But if you’re providing a service at SDCC, whether you work for Netflix, Mattel, Hasbro, or any other company, you are to be courteous, or give up your job for someone who will be.
Attendees from around the world spend anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 each just to be there. This event is theirs. It doesn’t belong to CBS, or HBO. This belongs to fans. When you’re rude, or demanding, or get the attitude that you’re doing someone a favor by telling them to get lost, you are doing a disservice to the company you represent and to the convention itself. That should be self explanatory, but apparently isn’t.
Will any of this get done? Probably not. But I avoid the floor every year now, meaning that the hundreds of dollars I would normally spend each day on the floor now goes home with me, because I refuse to be told to “move along” by an untrained kid while I’m shopping. Until proactive changes are made to fix problems before they start, or the consistent problems that take place in larger numbers each year, the problems are only going to get bigger, more costly and perhaps more dangerous.
Many of the changes have been great!
The offsite additions that are already in use have been incredible. The added security on rooftops to protect from those who are there to harm others is appreciated beyond measure. Fencing in the crazies who are there to tell us we’re going to hell for attending is a big plus. Mailing the badges early, pre-sales, badge scanning at the door, the hotel lottery and other things that CCI has done to make planning to attend easier has been a bumpy road, but is a positive step in the right direction. I commend them and the city for all of this and encourage them to keep smoothing out the issues by always making the changes necessary to improve.