Saturday, July 20, 2013

MonsterCon 2013: A Last-Minute Change of Venue

Please note that despite efforts on my part to contact the Hilton (in a professional manner, mind you), I was unable to get any official statement from them. Not that I'm surprised.
Any information directly referring to MonsterCon was taken directly from the Facebook page run by its organizers.

Okay, so, the "bad" stuff first ;)

Imagine my surprise when I signed into Facebook Thursday night around 10 PM...and saw an update from MonsterCon's Facebook page stating that the convention was moving locations.

Just one week and one day before it was supposed to happen.

Now, I have to be completely honest - my first reaction was pretty much, "WTF? This sucks." Because (a) they moved it from the Hilton, which is 3 miles from my house, to Furman University, which is 11 miles from my house; and (b) Furman is essentially a dry campus, which means if I want to sip a beer while I hang out between panels, it's...not gonna happen. I couldn't even imagine how upset anyone traveling in from outside of Greenville would be - especially because the closest hotel to Furman is 2 miles away, and who the heck wants to have to drive to and from a con for three days straight? Some people don't even have that option if they actually want to wear their costumes. Luckily I don't have to worry about that particular issue, but yeah, I wasn't too happy with going from an approximately 8 minute commute to a 25 minute commute. I'm still not.

However...there is that old adage, 'shit happens'. And I personally believe that MonsterCon has gotten the shitty end of the stick in this situation - and that they've handled it as well as they possibly could. And their efforts should be recognized - perhaps even applauded.

First things first, I feel the need to point out that the Hilton does not have the best reputation in Greenville when it comes to events and conventions. Once upon a time I worked for a company that had some one-day events there, and after some pretty hefty issues with our second event the decision was made to not have them there anymore. And apparently other business in Greenville have had issues with holding events at the Hilton as well...but I suppose I digress from the truly important information.

What I have concluded in regards to MonsterCon's issues with the Hilton is the following:
  • There were issues with the accommodations portion of the agreement, possibly from the very beginning (some people had to pay deposits up front while others did not; some had confirmation emails stating they could cancel up to 7 days in advance without penalty, while others had confirmations stating 14 days), but the biggest problem was that the Hilton released their available room inventory for MonsterCon, to the public, 12 days ahead of schedule.
  • The parking situation was shaping up to be a nightmare. Now, I understand that the Hilton cannot just create extra parking spots, but the information I was getting made it sound like they weren't even trying to help the convention in terms of finding additional parking. In fact, I know that the Hilton has a shuttle that does runs in the immediate area, and with the talk of people having to park at the mall, I just have to wonder why a large convention bringing in so much money wouldn't have use of that shuttle throughout the weekend.
  • While capacity issues are something that the convention has to keep an eye on in terms of how many tickets they sell, MonsterCon was very vocal about the fact that they were running out of tickets and then *suddenly* capacity became, according to the Hilton, a huge problem. A convention that was clearly controlling the number of tickets they would sell simply shouldn't have had to deal with that sort of flak.
  • At some point the Hilton started expressing concerns about us con-goers as a group. While I don't have exact quotes, the wording that was used was that the hotel was worried about how their "regular/'normal' guests" would react to us. What appears to have happened is that the hotel began to see just how many people were attending MonsterCon and suddenly thought, "Oh no, what about the 50 or so people staying here who aren't participating in this convention?! The attendees will be tacky and will embarrass us! MUST PROTECT THE 'NORMAL' PEOPLE!" (Note that I'm using 'normal' in quotes, please and thank you.)
  • Eventually the Hilton threatened MonsterCon with cancellation. Just over a week before the convention. So rather than bow to the hotel's extraneous demands - or cancel/reschedule - the organizers went out of their way to find a new venue. 
So not only did the organizers refuse to be bullied - and let the convention attendees be bullied - by the Hilton, but they didn't take the easy way out. At least one of them, from what I have heard, put up personal monies in order to relocate MonsterCon to Timmons Arena at Furman. We now have more space and won't have to deal with lack of parking or overcrowding. Furman is a beautiful campus, great for cosplay photos.  There have even been new room blocks set up at two downtown Greenville hotels - the Hampton Inn and the Courtyard Marriott - and new nightlife scheduled at a great venue, Ford's in downtown Greenville. There will even be a (from what I know, *free*) shuttle from the downtown Greenville hotels to Furman, provided by the convention.

As someone who has organized a convention herself (albeit a much smaller one), I can't imagine the amount of work and the amount of stress the organizers of MonsterCon have endured, and I hope - no, I know - that it will pay off for them in the end. So please, please, if you are in the upstate South Carolina area or can make it here next weekend - come support MonsterCon and the people who, against all odds considering these recent developments, are making it happen...and in fact, probably making it better than it could have been had the convention been held at its original location.

I know I'll be there! :) And while yeah, I'm not fond of having to drive 11 miles each way to Furman for three days in a row...I'm definitely excited that the nightlife is being held in downtown Greenville, and I'm hoping that at the very least, everything that has happened will lead to MonsterCon 2014 being held entirely in the center of this beautiful city :)
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  1. I had very similar feelings when i saw the venue change. For me personally the driving distance change was the opposite tho so now 5 mins away instead of 25ish. I feel most bad for people who booked rooms. Ive been to alot of cons personally and i know that being away from location will most likely detract some from the over all feel. But in the end i think they made what ever decisions they had too to make it work. I think if they decide to keep it in greenville for the next year they should look at the marriott or some of the hotels off pelham rd. They have nice convention space and 2 hotels across the street from each other so plenty of room to expand if needed.

    1. Yeah Pelham could be good, but I *really* hope they look downtown - there are several hotels down there, the Hyatt has tons of meeting space, and it's so pretty. On weekends if you park at the right times there is also plenty of free parking, but even the parking that costs money is only like $7/day, and that's *nothing* compared to parking at other cons (MegaCon in Orlando is like $15/day if you're staying at the hotels, more if you're not; Dragon Con being in Atlanta, parking runs anywhere from $20-30 per day, ugh)