WonderCon, the large comic book convention that started in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been in Oakland at the Oakland Convention Center since 1987 to 2002, then at the Moscone Center to 2011. In 2012 WonderCon was forced to seek a temporary home due to expansion-related construction at Moscone Center. Anaheim came forward with an aggressive plan to host WonderCon, and so this year the common traffic patterns have flipped: Bay Area WonderCon goers traveled to Anaheim, but wondered when it would come back to San Francisco.
That time may be never if one San Francisco Public Official I talked to is to be believed. When I asked him when WonderCon was returning to San Francisco, and what they were going to do to get it back in the way of completing the expansion efforts, the official responded: “WonderCon doesn’t make any money for San Francisco.”
Thus, it looks like the future of WonderCon in San Francisco has been killed by the City’s arrogance. According to a number of publications, San Francisco failed to provide WonderCon with 2013 dates in its common spring time period, asking WonderCon to wait until the fall. San Francisco has done little to make WonderCon know it’s wanted in the City by the Bay. By contrast, Anaheim has been responsive to WonderCon and aggressive in bringing the event to the land of Disney.
San Francisco has made a giant mistake. It’s seemingly pushing WonderCon away at the very time it’s reached its largest growth spurt in history. Consider that in 2009, WonderCon drew 34,000, then 39,000, and in 2011, 49,500 people. Few conventions are that large, or can claim that kind of growth trend. While it’s true that WonderCon brings a lot of local families to Moscone Center, who then go back home after the days are done, it’s also true that San Francisco hotels have benefited from WonderCon’s growth, and there was every reason to believe 2012 would be its best year yet.
Why is WonderCon growing? Simple: the rise of movies based on comic books and graphic novels, and the influx of digital media into the process of cartoons and animation. The Bay Area itself is rich with talent who work in this area (consider Lucasfilm and Pixar), so I argue that WonderCon has not reached its potential here.
Only that it’s not here.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee can make a statement of declaration of the value of WonderCon to San Francisco. It’s a good move in that it says to the fans SF will be aggressive in getting it back and it says that San Francisco’s aggressive in developing its own economy.