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November 3, 2014

With Comic-Con pre-registration just around the corner, SDWP reviewed the convention’s impact on San Diego. Although it is not possible to capture data on all jobs created specifically for Comic-Con, it is possible to review Comic-Con’s impact on the San Diego Convention Center workforce. Following is a snapshot on how San Diego’s largest convention affects its largest venue.<--break->” title=”<--break-->” /></p>
<p>The San Diego Convention Center has hosted the annual San Diego Comic-Con (sponsored by Comic-Con International) every summer since 1991(1). Each year the four-day convention draws more than 100,000 visitors to San Diego, filling downtown with costumed convention-goers.</p>
<p>Of all Convention Center-specific economic generators, Comic-Con has the largest impact on the San Diego regional economy(2); estimates suggest $160–$180 million each year(3). Further, the convention brings hundreds of additional jobs and wages to the region. </p>
<p>The Convention Center hosts approximately 76 primary conventions (conventions that bring in mostly out-of-town attendees) and 75 secondary (local) events each year. For these events, the Convention Center employs more than 500 staff (200 full-time, 300 part-time/temporary) in a variety of services—cleaning, concierge, convention staffing, electrical, engineering, grounds, security, building and guest services—to ensure that each event is successful. </p>
<p><img decoding=Comic-Con requires 100 percent of the Convention Center’s 500-member staff, while other San Diego conventions need only 80–90 percent of the Convention Center workforce. Further, compared to other events, Convention Center employees spend at least two additional days preparing for and wrapping up Comic-Con.

Convention Center workers (part- and full-time) earn, on average, $13.36 per hour. A typical primary convention includes a workday of eight hours per day for a three-day period, while a typical secondary convention includes one eight-hour day. This means that events held at the Convention Center contribute approximately $14 million in wages to the local economy each year(4) ($136,000 per primary convention and $45,000 per secondary convention). For Comic-Con specifically, assuming six workdays (four conference days plus two additional prep and wrap days) at eight hours per day, the convention brings in more than $320,000 wages into the local economy.(5)

The Convention Center hires temporary employees to fill positions when the regular staff cannot cover the needs of any particular convention, including Comic-Con. Because conventions take place in San Diego year-round, this is a common occurrence at the Convention Center. Many employees work multiple events at the Convention Center year after year. 

The Convention Center posts job listings on its website, recruits temporary event staff from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Concourse and the San Diego Trolley, and posts ads on Craigslist and The Convention Center begins the hiring process with returning workers (those who worked the previous year), and then fills open positions with new recruitments, based on attrition. Steven Johnson, Vice President of Public Affairs at the Convention Center, noted that “many of the applicants are referred or worked here previously as a regular or temporary employee. This year timing [of hiring for Comic-Con] coincided with a job fair we attended at Mesa College.” 

The types of positions include:

  • Concession stand and on-site Starbucks workers
  • Electricians
  • Engineers
  • Event security guards
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union workers
  • Laborers to set up the convention floor 
  • Workers monitoring the convention floor (not including the exhibitors & exhibitor staff) 
  • Additional staff and bus drivers

In addition to the hiring done by the Convention Center, Comic-Con hires extra staff, including security officers, shuttle bus drivers, individuals to work the panels and events at off-site areas (nearby hotels, Petco Park and Horton Plaza) and others. Local businesses and organizations also hire additional staff for the four-day event; however, there is no clearinghouse to track these hires so the numbers are not known. 

Comic-Con is just one of many events that make San Diego a hub for tourism. And according to the San Diego Tourism Authority, for every one job created in the tourism industry, 2.3 jobs are created in the region to support the additional workers(6), and for every $1 earned by workers in the tourism industry, $1.86 total earnings is created in the region(7). Clearly Comic-Con’s impact is far-reaching—beyond the outlandish costumes and celebrity sightings. 



1. Comic-Con International

2. San Diego Convention Center FY13 Annual Report

3. San Diego Tourism Authority

4. $13.36/hour * 8 hours/day *3 days * 425 workers * 76 primary conventions + $13.36/hour * 8 hours/day * 1 day * 425 workers * 77 secondary conventions

5. $13.36/hour * 8 hours/day * 6 days * 500 workers

6. NAICS 561591: San Diego Tourism Authority

7. Economic Modeling Specialists, International

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