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Will Phoenix Comicon

Sell-Out In 2014?

Background image by Sam Howzit and used under a Creative Commons license. Logo retrieved from the Phoenix Comicon website.

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Due To Concerns From The Phoenix Fire Marshal, Phoenix Comicon Puts Caps On Attendance This Year And May Have To Turn Away Those Relying On Buying Memberships On-Site

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Staff Report
Modern Times Magazine

May 19, 2014 — For the first time in the history of the event, the Phoenix Comicon is putting limits on the number of memberships it sells.

That just may mean it will sell out for the first time and attendees that depend on buying a membership the day of the event might be disappointed. As of early Monday evening, however, Phoenix Comicon had not yet sold out of any membership type, said Matt Solberg, the convention director.

The decision is based on current sales projections for a record turnout, and in light of historical growth trends for the multiple genre entertainment and comic book convention. There were 432 attendees at the inaugural Phoenix Comicon in 2002; in 2006, attendance surpassed 2,600 and exceeded 4,400 in 2007. Today, such four-digit numbers are standard for single panels, Solberg said in a statement released last week.

Besides the concerns of Phoenix Comicon in wanting to have a safe and fun event, city fire codes have also come into play.  The Phoenix fire marshal has been active in working with Phoenix Comicon to determine how many weekend and daily memberships can be purchased.

“It is a very large event. The exhibit hall is very well attended because there are lots of things for people to see, interactive things and that type of stuff,” said Mary Schilling of the Phoenix Fire Department. “Some of the breakout sessions are very well attended, some of them are not. We moved some of them around to ensure that we have the largest spaces being used for the largest events. And in the exhibit hall, which we also did last year, we went with wider aisles so more people could move through more freely.”

“It gets congested in particular areas, but there are other areas that are very open in the same room,” she said. “So when, for example, there is an author signing that is very popular, at that moment it gets crowded there, but it never exceeds the load available for the space.”

This year's Phoenix Comicon is June 5 to 8 at its current mothership location of the Phoenix Convention Center, and the quantities of each membership type to be sold have been approved by the City Fire Marshal based on capacity and egress load limits of the facility.

“The biggest part that has changed for this year is the location of the registration, which has been moved to the south building; this will really give Comicon some added space for exhibits, and increase the exhibits footprint on the lower level,” said Dan Padilla of the Phoenix Convention Center’s guest/client services office. “Along with that it gave a couple of extra meeting room spaces in the south building, and some areas that do activities as they would normally have done at hotels, then can shift to our facility and then use the hotel’s facilities for more breakout areas and other functions that they want to do.”

Certain controls may be used to ease congestion at peak traffic locations and times, and the limits to be in place will allow for significantly more membership sales than last year, Solberg said. The exhibitor hall is being expanded, programming space, food and seating options are being added to the south building, more programming is being added to the west building, the Hyatt, the Renaissance, and the Sheraton, and Third Street between the north and west buildings of the center will be closed to make room for additional activities.

“Third Street is going to be used for static displays for vehicles that Comicon will be bringing, one of the things that will probably be out there will be the ambulance from Ghostbusters, for example,” Padilla said. “Also with Comicon, there are a lot of people on the streets walking around, we have the zombie walk that has become associated with Comicon, so there's peripheral stuff that goes on, that just brings people downtown who aren't registered for the event but they want to come look at the ambiance of the event. And so that is part of the reason why Third Street is being used.”

Once the convention begins on June 5, online and onsite memberships will continue to be sold as long as any of the allotted quantity remain available, but once the limit has been reached, no more of that membership type will be sold, anywhere. It is possible that certain memberships will sell out before the event opens. Full event and Saturday memberships are the most popular types, and would likely be the first two to sell out, Solberg said.

There are plenty of membership quantities available now, and a significant portion of the attendees historically have waited until the event is much nearer to purchase online, or onsite. However, news of these membership limits are expected to spur sales, and there may be sellouts this year before the show starts, Solberg said.

Free sidekick memberships have been factored into the venue capacities and sales limits, so free memberships are available to kids 12 and under again this year. Next year, the event will gain significantly more programming and exhibitor space than what it currently has, Solberg said.
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