Updated: Jul 19, 2019
By Derek May:
I’ve been an avid convention attendee for about as long as I can remember. I started as a kid going to Star Trek conventions all over the country, back in the days when entry cost like $20 and autographs were included in the admission. Things have changed a bit since those glory days. Comic-Cons are now a billion-dollar global industry, ranging from mom-and-pop mini-cons with local celebs to corporate behemoths landing A-list superstars. And as such, the quality of experience varies just as greatly.
For myself, I tend to gauge my enjoyment of a con on several factors, but the “size” of the celebrity attending is not necessarily one of them. If I had to sum up in a word what I hope for, it might be “accessibility”: to the celebrities, to the vendors, to information, to the location, to the products for purchase.
On just about all these counts, Alamo City Comic-Con (ACCC) of San Antonio, Texas, did not have their best year. Not by a longshot.
Let’s step back for a second and look at the lead up. We’ve been attending ACCC since its inaugural con back in 2013. While they had a rough first year, they seemed to be addressing the issues year after year. So much so that by 2016, we had one of the smoothest, most enjoyable con experiences we’ve ever had! Lines flowing freely, passes organized and ready for dissemination, easy access to celebrities and panels, great utilization of the convention center space so as to spread it out across the venue and prevent bottlenecking. . . . It was glorious! No surprise, attendance each year grew exponentially. Then in 2017 they moved from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center across the highway to the Alamodome. And as you might expect, there were some growing pains, but with a year under their belt, they would have surely learned their lesson, right?
Though we had purchased our 3-Day passes (plus a “Flash Pass” which allows us to skip lines) nearly a year in advance, when we arrived on Friday afternoon we were in for a shock before we even got out of the car. Firstly, two lots we regularly use because of their convenient location and $20 parking suddenly announced they would now be charging $60—no thanks. We found a city lot literally across the street for $19.
After the 1-mile walk to the Dome, we went through security no problem, then spent 5 minutes trying to find the end of the overwhelming line of people waiting to get in! None of the wandering staff were directing people where to go. It took another hour or so to get inside, most likely because instead of utilizing the 10 staffed entrances, they herded everyone into one of 4 gates. Once through the door, our tickets were deemed unscannable for some reason, and we were shuttled to a customer service line, who promptly gave us our 3-Day passes, but then directed us to a third, and MUCH-longer line, to get our Flash Pass. Fortunately, some industrious staffer had the bright idea to walk by and ask if anyone was waiting for just a Flash Pass, handing one to us. Who’da thunk? On that same note, the 3-Day pass was now a wrist-band that we were expected to wear for three days straight (thanks), and the Flash Pass was a card meant to be hung on the lanyard they didn’t include (thanks). And as we tried to shrug off the hassles of getting in, we were told only VIPs could use the escalator at the front to go down to the main floor, and everyone else needed to walk to one of the far stairs at each corner of the building. Seriously!