The 2013 Phoenix Comicon roared into downtown Phoenix over the Memorial Day weekend and filled the streets with attendees. Even though the convention delivered on many things that were expected of it, it couldn’t help but stumble and stutter on small things along the way.
The Phoenix Convention Center itself suffered over the weekend as the thousands of attendees made its walls swell and clogged the thoroughfare multiple times. Midday Saturday was an especial turning point, as security and staffers closed off North building entrances from street level, and forced guests to a single route of access due to escalators reportedly failing and creating a fire hazard through foot traffic jams. Late Sunday, a fire alarm was triggered at the convention center and forced the temporary evacuation of thousands of attendees. The convention released a statement detailing that this was due to a potential fire scare on the third floor of the center (not being used for programming) and that an investigation to the cause was underway.
Other than perhaps John Barrowman (of Arrow and Torchwood fame) or the Babylon 5 reunion, the convention was feeling a little light on big name guests this time around. Coupled with the cancellations of Anthony Michael Hall, Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), and The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, the Phoenix Comicon lacked the real punch it has had with guests in previous years. Many on the convention’s fan page voiced their irritation at how many of the cancellations were announced seemingly at the last minute or quietly without being majorly noted on their website.
The overcrowding truly did become an issue with panels, as many rooms had lines down the hallways, blocking off other entries. Many convention goers were turned away from smaller panels due to a lack of room. The ballrooms and exhibitor’s hall however, had plenty of room and seating to accommodate the swelling crowds over the weekend.
Positive elements of the convention included the youth programming and gaming areas having their own wing of a convention building, thereby reducing the amount of runaround families had to do in order to get to those events. The Hyatt tabletop gaming areas were laid out nicely and the convention center ballrooms were utilized to their fullest potential.
Small areas like the Star Wars and steampunk villages inside of the exhibitor hall were unique spots for photo ops, and cosplayer groups were more than obliged to participate. Vendors also had smaller, more efficient setups overall, which made for easier access and passing for attendees in the busy area.
Overall the Phoenix Comicon was an event that was enjoyable, but mired in problems. The convention definitely delivered on artists and programming, but things such as foot traffic, crowding, and downtown area parking should be top priorities for future fixes as the event continues to grow in attendance.