Update To Our Fans About Artist Alley Changes

Posted March 12, 2015

Dear Kumoricon fans,

This week we announced some major changes to the Artist Alley, most notably that it would be moved outdoors to a tented area alongside the Hilton. This decision was the end result of a long process made necessary by the demolition of the Centennial Center building of the Red Lion (a major portion of our convention space) in which we considered many different layout solutions.

Many of our attendees and artists have given valuable feeback regarding this decision. There were many concerns, and several people have voiced a fear that this change may negatively impact the safety and viability of Artist Alley. We understand that this solution is a major change and the difficulty this will impose on some of our loyal artists. While we did not wish to shock or displease anyone with this news, we do understand that significant changes always come with challenges, and we hope that Kumoricon's loyal fanbase will understand those difficulties as well as our thought process in helping Kumoricon continue to succeed. We'd like to provide more information about why we made this decision and what it will mean and near the end of this letter answer some questions about safety, security, and pricing.

In September last year, we were informed the Centennial Center would be demolished under an arrangement with the City of Vancouver to re-route an adjacent road. Kumoricon has used this building for convention space every year that Kumoricon has been located in both hotels. As many long-time attendees are aware, the layout of Kumoricon has changed almost every year, due to our amazing growth and a need to experiment with the best layout for our attendees.

We, Kumoricon's board, consider every element of the convention when choosing a layout. We look at what times of day each event runs. Our Programming staff spread out events so that attendees enjoy both hotels during the busiest times. We look at the number of people attending popular events and what rooms are available to hold them. When we consider a room for Exhibits Hall or Artist Alley, we must create a layout that includes each booth space, and which is in compliance with fire code and ADA, and use that layout when comparing different options. Staff also pay particular attention to crowd numbers in the Hilton garage, which does not have the air conditioning capacity that all the other indoor spaces have.

Losing the Centennial Center for Kumoricon 2015, a total of 4500 square feet, presented several new challenges, including limiting our maximum capacity for attendees, which in turn affects our future ability to provide amazing things for you as attendees. One option that we considered was renting outside space. Unfortunately, there is not a commercially available or affordable indoor space within easy walking distance of the convention at this time. We considered shuttles to bring attendees to and from a more distant location, but we concluded that that would result in too low of traffic for the Artist Alley—particularly if that was the only programming kept offsite. (We reached the same conclusion even if we included Exhibits Hall at a remote location.) If we kept Artist Alley indoors, we would only have room for up to 10 tables—which would be a reduction of over 75% from our previous size. We also decided to not locate both Artist Alley and Exhibits Hall in the Hilton garage as that would bring the crowds and heat level too high with our very limited air conditioning capacity, not to mention the known lighting issue.

With these options having been considered, the only feasible options remaining were to significantly reduce programming for the convention or to move something outside. Reducing our programming would reduce the overall capacity for the convention, a capacity already lowered with the loss of the Centennial center. Much of the remaining convention programming involves panel or multimedia programming which requires extensive power, amplified sound or video, and seating. Many of our panel rooms run from 8:00 or 10:00 in the morning until well past midnight. On the other hand, we know that artists enjoy being in indoor space and having the security of their tables being in a locked location overnight. In considering two very undesirable options, we therefore made the hard decision that moving the Artist Alley outdoors would bring the least compromise to the convention.

To help offset drawbacks of Artist Alley's new location, we decided to make the area open to the public. Not only will Artists be able to sell to our convention's ever-increasing attendance, but they will also have the chance to benefit from local foot traffic generated by cosplayers in Esther Short Park and the nearby farmers market.

We'd like to clarify what we mean about being open to the public. Artist Alley will still be considered to be in "convention space". This means that convention policies apply, and our staff will be patrolling the area, just like any other place in the convention. Kumoricon, not the City of Vancouver, is the keeper of the space for the duration of the convention, and we retain the ability to require somebody to leave if they are violating policies or causing a disturbance. In this way, we provide the same protection that is present in the rest of convention space—but with the benefit of increased traffic.

To help provide as much security as possible, the Artist Alley, although outdoors, will be located within a fenced area, with specific entry and exit points monitored by our staff. We are also looking into overnight security options.

We have also heard the concerns from those artists who are not staying in one of the local convention hotels, because of the need to pack up and set up each day. We are investigating storage options for affected artists, and are hoping to have more information to commmunicate to you shortly.

Many of you are concerned about the price increase. The increase was planned before the issue with the Centennial Center arose. The reason for the increase is that while we had raised the prices of our regular convention memberships to account for our change to a four day convention, we had not yet scaled our Artist Alley prices accordingly. Last year, the price of one Artist Alley table with two badges was the same as simply buying two regular convention memberships at the door. In the two previous years, one table with two included badges actually cost less than two regular memberships at the door. Our 2015 Artist Alley prices now reflect a small premium above regular memberships.

We know that with the challenges faced this year, we cannot give all elements of convention programming as much space as they need. But we hope to communicate why we have made some of the difficult calls that we did.

Thank you for your understanding and feedback, and we're continuing to listen and consider options to help make this the best convention that we are able.

The Kumoricon Team