Comic-Con to Stay in S.D. Through 2016; Nonprofit Lists Assets of $13M

Comic-Con offices in La Mesa.

The wildly popular Comic-Con International convention will be held at the San Diego Convention Center through 2016, its operators and Mayor Jerry Sanders announced Monday.

San Diego officials and the organizers of the celebration of pop culture, which attracts comic book and movie fans from around the world, said they agreed to a one-year extension of their current contract.

Details, such as room rates at area hotels, still need to be worked out, said David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of marketing and communications.

Formally called the San Diego Comic Convention, the nonprofit group’s year-round work force is based in La Mesa. 

In its latest financial disclosures, filed July 12, Comic-Con said it had revenues of $11.97 million for the year ended Aug. 31, 2011.  That compares with gross receipts of $10.16 million the previous year.

The group’s IRS-mandated Form 990 disclosure listed year-end assets of $13.47 million, compared with $11 million the previous year.

The 2011 convention cost $8.28 million to put on but brought in $10.46 million, according to the disclosure [attached to this story]. Smaller conventions in Northern California called Wondercon and Alternative Press Expo are also listed in the 26-page document.

Dona Fae Desmond, the group’s executive director, was paid $104,261, according to the filing, and her daughter, Maija Gates, was paid $80,689.

Comic-Con—the largest annual attraction in San Diego, draws nearly 130,000 attendees annually and has outgrown the convention center—which prompted tourism officials from other cities to tempt organizers of the show to move elsewhere a few years ago. In the last couple of years, the convention has spread into nearby hotels and parks.

“This plan is working right now,” Glanzer said. “If we can all continue to work together over the next few years, we should all be happy campers.”

City officials hope to start construction on an expansion of the center next year and have it open for business in 2016.

Sanders said Comic-Con turns the Gaslamp Quarter into a “high-tech Twilight Zone” with great people-watching.

“It’s not only an enormous source of pride, it’s an enormous source of revenue for San Diego—for the city, for the hotels, for the shops and for the restaurants. The economic impact is out of this world,” Sanders said.

The convention pumps $180 million into the local economy and provides the city of San Diego with $3 million in sales and hotel room tax income, Sanders said.

That revenue goes directly to city services, like public safety and library hours, according to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf. The convention center expansion will allow Comic-Con to host more attendees and conduct more panels, so there will be more jobs to support them, she said.

Glanzer said the extension was not predicated on the promised expansion, but the project will be a factor for a subsequent agreement.

The convention was started in 1970 as a modest comic book fair and has since grown into a premier pop culture extravaganza. It hasn’t been determined when tickets for the general public will go on sale for the 2013 show, but it won’t be until next year, Glanzer said.

—City News Service contributed to this report.