The short answer is probably “no”, San Diego Comic-Con won’t tear itself away from its moorings anytime in the near future but a new ruling by the San Diego City Council opens the door for, if nothing else, a bit of hyperbole and instability in the convention’s relationship with San Diego as the city struggles to execute a $520 million expansion to the San Diego Convention Center.
In said decision, the Council chose to not appeal a court ruling that put the kibosh on a new surcharge on hotel guests staying in the city, which would of course effect all travelers to the very popular year-round tourist destination and not just SDCC attendees. The surcharge, which was embraced by hotel owners in the area, would tack on 1-3% of a guest’s room rate onto their bill, adding to the monies collected by other room taxes and fees to make staying in San Diego just a little bit more expensive.
The problem with the surcharge isn’t in its amount, but in the way that it was approved. Apparently, the tax needs to be approved by a popular citywide vote for it to legally take effect.
So, without a way to fund the expansion, what does this mean for SDCC? The most realistic assumption is that the convention center will find another way to fund the construction of the expansion, even if it means putting the surcharge to a public vote. If the expansion doesn’t happen, though, I suppose it is conceivable that the world’s biggest pop culture convention could look to re-locate (maybe Vegas? Maybe they would merge Wonder Con with SDCC and find a huge venue in LA… though I have no idea where) but that would not be an easy separation.
For one thing, moving isn’t as simple as just finding a new “house”. SDCC is massive and there aren’t a lot of venues that could accommodate 200 thousand people over the course of a weekend. there’s also lot of history between the city and the event and a lot of money on the table. SDCC brings in about $180 million every year for the city of San Diego, but while that’s a lot of money, it’s not San Diego’s only draw and the city could live without it. UTSanDiego.com has a great article about SDCC and whether the city’s tourism industry would “thrive” sans the convention and 13 out of 14 local officials, analysts and business representatives all said “yes”.
Remember, while SDCC seems like the beating heart of the nerdverse (even though that might be lessening…) to us, in the real world of dollars and cents, other kinds of conventions can also be a draw and help infuse a city with cash. Fans should remember that when they assume that SDCC will never lose the SD, but while it’s unlikely, it’s certainly not impossible.