Comic-Con is king: economic impact is tremendous
by BART MENDOZA
Aug 02, 2010 | 9118 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Captain America pleads to keep the Comic-Con in San Diego and not move to another city when its contract expires in a few years. Photo by Don Balch
Captain America pleads to keep the Comic-Con in San Diego and not move to another city when its contract expires in a few years. Photo by Don Balch
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DOWNTOWN — San Diego Comic Con International wrapped up its 40th year on July 25, transforming the Convention Center and downtown into pop culture heaven. Though the event was a sold out success drawing roughly 140,000 people to the area, much of the talk during its four days, plus preview night, centered on whether or not the convention would leave San Diego after its contract expires in 2012. Having hit capacity limits locally, both Las Vegas and Anaheim have actively sought to have Comic Con International move to their cities. The hope is that by working with the city to iron out things such as hotel rates for attendees and a proposed expansion of the convention center, the event will remain a downtown fixture for decades to come.

Comic Con organizers will be making an announcement soon on its future in San Diego, but it’s loss would be a huge blow to not only downtown, but the entire county.

“It has a $193 million dollar economic impact,” said Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.

He cites figures of roughly $25 million in retail income, $40 million in restaurant revenue and transportation, with direct spending alone totaling nearly $100 million.

“It’s a very important event for San Diego economically, but also from the standpoint of the press it gets. It’s not just local and it’s not just San Diego,” he said.

Comic Con garners worldwide coverage and is now regularly mentioned or featured in network TV programs from “The Simpsons” to CNN special reports.

“There’s actually more international press than there is national press,” Terzi said. “That’s important to us. We couldn’t buy that.”

Brandy Shimabukuro, marketing and public relations employee with the Gaslamp Quarter Association, points out that sales greatly increase for many of the area’s shops and restaurants during the convention, but just as importantly, there is a residual effect. “A lot of places note repeat business throughout the year from people who attended the Con and wanted to come back and do a weekend or take their family to one of the local attractions. We love to hear that,” Shimabukuro said.

Downtown is known for having many large gatherings, from Mardi Gras to an annual Halloween party, Monster Bash, however, Terzi noted there is no comparison on the impact economically or otherwise to Comic-Con.

Music festival Street Scene, cancelled for 2010 after it’s 25th anniversary staging in 2009, was one of the largest draws to the area, at its peak attracting more than 60,000. According to Shimabukuro, with the festival's cancellation so recent, it’s too soon to tell what impact its loss might mean to the area, but Terzi said that even beyond the numbers of actual attendees, there is simply no comparison between Comic-Con and anything else taking place downtown.

“Street Scene is more of a local event,” he said. “Some visitors come and stay from outside of town, but you’re not going to produce anywhere near the economic impact that Comic-Con does.”

He considers such concerts and parades to have a major, positive impact on the area but notes, “if you added them all up together they wouldn’t come close to the economic impact of Comic-Con.”

While it’s expected that restaurants and hotels will always pick up business during Comic-Con, so do retailers of all types. According to Erin Liddell, senior art consultant with the Chuck Jones Gallery, located on Fifth Avenue, business nearly doubled during the convention. The animation art gallery was able to tie-in indirectly with Comic-Con, hosting appearances from artist Alex Voss and Marvel Comics' founder Stan Lee during its run.

“There isn’t anywhere else on this earth that we would want to be during Comic-Con,” Liddell said. “From publicity and press to the increase in people coming in to enjoy our artwork, it’s 100 percent amazing for us. To lose it would have a huge impact on us.”

Although the emphasis during Comic-Con is on the downtown area, both Terzi and Shimabukuro are thrilled with it’s economic spill over into the surrounding areas.

“One of the great things about this event is that it affects other communities, besides downtown,” Shimabukuro said. ”Whether it's attendees going out to dinner in Pacific Beach or heading to one of the area's many attractions, Comic-Con touches on everything in San Diego County.”
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