By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Every year, the layout of where some events take place during the Emerald City Comicon regularly changes. Part of shuffling is to help fine-tune certain aspects of the show, but for attendees who have gone to at least four shows successively, like me, I’ve noticed that the gaming, LEGO and the model displays area are getting downsized. Gaming has its own floor this year, which is great, but it feels like a smaller space when compared to last year’s where the convention used the Sheridan Hotel as its game area.
Unlike the three buildings used last year, this year marks its return to two, and that can lead to potential bottlenecking of the main access route between floors.
The best thing to know in advance is that there are two escalators from the main level that people can take. Both more or less take the same amount of time to arrive at the destination, and those people who know the centre can take advantage of these secret passageways like an expert dungeon crawler to get to a panel just in time, or to line up for them.
This year, the panels (happening on one side of the centre, labelled the TCC area) and photo ops / autograph (that’s located on the opposite, WSCC ) are getting shuffled to two different parts of the building. Some people are going to ask if this distancing is really going to work?
I think it’ll be better to plan at least 15 minutes in advance to get from one side of the convention to another if that’s the case. Arriving on time may not always happen. On a busy Saturday for attendees wanting to step out for a quick bite only to find that the return is met with an escalator full of hungry geeks might get problematical. They may be going through to check out the exhibits (WSCC level 4), the gaming (WSCC Level 2) or to explore two smaller panel rooms (located in WSCC Level 3) of the seven. The remainder of these are located at opposite sides of the convention center, in the TCC building.
Thankfully, the staff in charge of organizing the revamped WSCC Level 6 have a few vendors and artists nearby for people to browse through if they do not want to wait, bounce between buildings, or stand in line for an hour before their favourite guest appears.
With apologies to the staff who assemble the maps in the official guide-book, I always find the ordering of areas odd. I find that not everything is boldly labelled to identify how to get from one area of the trade show floor to another. The elevators and escalators are marked with tiny text. To have these clearly emphasized (or put in a different colour) can be helpful for the first time attendee to know how to get around.
In a modified version I made, I put lines to link everything in the general ‘ECC Floor Plans’ link together. The arrows are not one-way indicators in the modified version that I’m providing as an ECCC 2015 Pocket Guide (it can be printed double-sided on 8½x11 or 11×17 paper). Alternatively, it can be saved on a tablet or mobile device to browse digitally), but it at least helps folks get an idea of where they are that’s relative to where they are located on the floor plan. My version is meant to help a newcomer to the convention center to navigate around. For actual event planning, I recommend the excellently made Guidebook that outlines all of this show’s events. By touching the heart icon, all the favourites or to do’s are listed in a convenient format for anyone to see what’s coming up. The only shame is that this program has no integration with the mobile device’s calendar app so ringtones can be played to remind folks that an item is coming up soon. Maybe the next version can have it.
Autograph seekers, art collectors and photo hounds (i.e. people wanting snapshots of their favourite celebrity) are best advised to buy a product like an Itoya Art Portfolio to sleeve all their prints in. Posters definitely require a proper tube, and my advice is to get one with a sling so it can be carried like a quiver. But if only one item from the above list is obtained throughout the show, a top-loader from BCW or Ultra Pro will do the job (there are at least two operations who sells those in the exhibit hall) but usually a dedicated binder is better. A hard shell photo binder one goes a long way for storing and protecting various autographed flat trinkets from crinkling or smudging. For the extra protection, a simple piece of paper in front of the autographed item before it touches the plastic is great. Some folks might go the extra mile and use proper backing boards on each page to give each page some extra stiffness. But when people do not want to spend a lot of money, a good ol’ fashioned sketchbook will do to keep everything flattened. Just make sure you can fold pages over to prevent items from slipping out.
For sustenance, before I even step into the building, a water bottle that I can clip on to my backpack or belt is a must. Staying hydrated is important. Keeping prepackaged food like fruit bars is great for snacking and an energy boost, but for actual food, there’s plenty of options this year inside and outside of the convention center. What’s inside is mostly fast food, but outside, healthier options are abound and nearby.
I have to thank ECCC for bringing a sampling of what I think is the best of Seattle’s food truck operations I’ll be reviewing them should I get a chance to sample their wares. But if either variety are not an individual’s cup of tea, there’s sushi (Blue C. Sushi) nearby and crepes (La Creperie Voila). For the latter, I find that their dishes are best to eaten right away than left to cool. Both are decent places. But where else can one go? Down Pike Street by four or so blocks will be a few more food trucks. Gourmet Dog Japon is often there, and sometimes a random second truck is nearby. Starbucks is also close for those in need for that taste of Seattle, with free wi-fi, and as for any place else, the dining options get more expensive. Before, I favoured going to the Crab Pot but Japonessa (best to reserve in advance) has beaten them.
Sadly Top Pot Doughnuts, a sponsor of ECCC from a few years ago, is not nearby. People who have opted to get a hotel further away will find that they will be in for a walk, approximately 15-25 minutes, but if they follow upon the path on 2124 5th Avenue (about eight blocks away), there’s one to stop by for coffee and doughnuts before the convention starts, or during the show, they can hit the one that’s closer by about four (1206 Madison St). Sadly, this operation closes early, so grabbing the needed morning breakfast is recommended instead of looking for a night bite.