Legion of Sand

Arizona's Guide to conventions and pop culture

Exclusive: Arizona Convention Directors Speak About Current State of Conventions Page 3

Question #3 – Arizona has a long list of pop culture conventions with even more people looking to start new cons in the state. Is there room for more cons here in Arizona? Is there too many now?

Mike Olivares – Tucson Comic-Con: The smaller shows throughout the year are great because they scratch the fandom itch until the bigger shows arrive. I feel that currently Arizona has the right amount of conventions, anymore I feel would just fall on top of other larger annual events we have in the state such as fairs and music festivals and would possibly step on the toes of the smaller well attended fandom shows we have throughout the state. For example anime,video game,table top gaming and toy shows etc. 

John Lester – Game On Expo: Arizona certainly has a lot of great pop culture cons already, and they’re all different than each other.  For example Zapcon is a fantastic arcade/pinball con that I really enjoy, but it’s very different than what Game On Expo offers. Even similar genre cons like Saboten Con and Taiyou Con; which are both anime focused, offer different experiences for the attendees. If someone were to come up with a new con and market it well, while appealing to a need, I believe there is still room for more.

Matt Solberg – Phoenix Comicon: I’m proud of the trend we began with the formation of Phoenix Comicon back in 2002, Saboten-Con in 2008, Con-nichiwa in 2010, Fan Fest in 2014, and the relaunch of Keen Halloween in 2016.  If a show can exceed the expectations of its attendees then it will have a chance to survive. I do think Arizona can support multiple shows as long as they each provide something unique. Saboten-Con, while no longer owned by us, is successful as they provide a very unique experience, as does Keen Halloween, as does Game On Expo or Tucson Comic Con. When the show feels repetitive is typically when they flounder and people wonder if there are too many.

Michael Spadafore – Taiyou Con: Arizona is something something of a special case unlike any market that I’ve researched. We are a very over saturated market when it comes to pop culture conventions of any topic (Comics, Anime, Gaming etc). I personally don’t believe that there is room for another standard convention (3 or 4 days) ;but, with that being said I do believe that there is still room for one or two day events here in the Phoenix metro area. 

Hal Astell – LepreCon43/Westercon 70: The number of cons in Arizona has increased every single year since 2008, reaching an amazing 45 in 2016. While existing cons do fall by the wayside every year too, I honestly see this number continuing to grow, because pop culture cons are mainstream now and people expect them.

While there’s an audience for big guests and big vendor halls, Little Billy often just wants to get a photo with Batman and someone to draw a picture of him. If he lives in Page or Yuma or Lake Havasu, is he going to PHXCC or his local library?

The only constant is change. The 1970s saw a wild variety of incredible cons that burned brightly but faded quickly. The 1980s settled down to the sci-fi cons. The 1990s saw the rise of niche cons for gaming, space, anime, furries and books, even pirates. The 2000s saw the return of the comic book con. The 2010s saw geekdom go mainstream.

The future promises more niches and more local venues. The majority of our cons are no longer in hotels or convention centers, they’re in schools and libraries.

Greg Fennell – Saboten Con: For me, the main purpose of running conventions is to help the community grow for the genre of the event.  The challenge I see is that with the growth of events in our market that too many are trying to do the same thing.  It’s great we are getting more events and it really helps our community get more activities to do, but it’s also critical for the organizers of these events to realize that our attendees only have so much discretionary funds to spend on a monthly/yearly basis.  If too many similar events run in the same year (or worse in the same 30 to 60-day timeframe) it forces those potential attendees to choose where to go, which could fracture the community more by the potential of making them choose sides on which event to support, which is contradictory to the goal of making our communities grow closer together.

I feel there is space to start up niche events to help get more granular events, but the broad genre events are pretty well set in our state.  As new events enter our market I would hope they would try and find different ways to entertain our attendees and not just throw another generic Anime, Comic, or Sci-Fi show.  We have a great group of event organizers here in Arizona and for the most part we have all been very cordial with each other and try not to step on each others toes by keeping our events far enough apart to not impact our community or the event negatively.

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