It’s official: Emerald City Comic Con and PAX West are canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Organizer ReedPop made the announcement Tuesday morning. Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) originally had been scheduled to take place in March but was postponed till Aug. 21-23 due to the pandemic. PAX West had been scheduled for Sept. 4-7.
The decision had been expected — the two were the only events left on the Washington State Convention Center schedule into December. Organizers held out as long as possible in hopes of an eventual reopening, but a continued cloudy outlook has even optimists viewing August and Labor Day weekend as long shots for a normal return to business.
“It just didn’t seem like it was something that we could do in August,” ReedPop Vice President Mike Armstrong said. “It might be a different situation if Emerald City had been postponed to December. Then I think we’d be having a different conversation. But August feels a little too close for comfort.”
ReedPop expects both events to return next year. ECCC is already scheduled for the first weekend in March and PAX West will return around Labor Day. The two events are among the largest of their type. ECCC, a celebration of geek culture, drew 98,000 fans in 2019.
Fans who have purchased ECCC tickets will receive refunds automatically by June 29, a news release says. ReedPop had not yet released tickets for PAX West, a consumer gaming convention.
ReedPop will try to fill the gap left by the cancellations with digital events for both conventions, aiming to connect fans with celebrities and participants originally scheduled to attend. Details for those events will be announced later, ECCC’s event director MK Goodwin said.
“Our shows aren’t just events that happen over a handful of days at a convention center, they’re a community,” Goodwin said. “And so it’s not just connecting people to their heroes. It’s also connecting them and allowing them to connect with each other. And I think this is a time where we’re all feeling more alone and isolated. And that’s a piece I think that’s the most challenging, replacing those personal events with digital events.”
The cancellations are also hitting the convention center hard. With these two events off the books, the WSCC has no conventions scheduled until December when the American Epilepsy Society is scheduled to meet.
“They’re hanging on and they really want to have their meeting here in December,” said Jeff Blosser, WSCC president.
Blosser is looking for creative ways to replace lost revenue in a complex that’s usually booked 48 or more weeks a year. He’s had discussions to possibly hold bar and accountancy exams, continuing education classes and King County court proceedings, and hopes to draw large-scale corporate meetings as well. These are all things that require lots of space in the age of social distancing and the convention center has plenty of that.
Blosser hopes to glean $10 million over the final five months of the year, a best-case scenario if reopening goes as currently expected. That will still leave WSCC far short of the estimated $37 million in anticipated 2020 earnings.
“This was the hard side: We had a great January and probably record-breaking February,” Blosser said. “And then all hell broke loose and the wheels fell off the middle of March. So we were going to have a really good year. And now it’s going to be about 50% of that.”