By John Egan
Over this year's Memorial Day weekend, more than 45,000 fans - many of them clad in their comic book hero costumes - descended on the George R. Brown Convention Center for Houston's own international comic convention, Comicpalooza. The 2015 version of the event took up about 1.1 million square feet, compared with about 800,000 in 2014.
Comicpalooza's move from smaller venues in Houston to the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) in 2010 has enabled the event to spread its wings, just as Batman and Superman spread their capes. Comicpalooza now ranks as the second largest pop culture event in Texas, behind South by Southwest in Austin.
"Holding it at the GRB has allowed Comicpalooza to create a fantastic experience for attendees and enough space for the 2,000 hours of programming that is produced over the weekend," said Michael Heckman, executive director of corporate partnerships/finance at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau (GHCVB), a partner of Comicpalooza.
Heckman said partnering with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and tapping into the bureau's and convention center's vast resources has helped fuel Comicpalooza's growth.
"Founder John Simons had an excellent vision for what he's wanted this event to become and has lined up some outstanding talent and unparalleled programming year after year," Heckman said. "He's totally dialed into what his audience is looking for."
Before Comicpalooza relocated to the GRB, the event was held at much smaller venues: a hotel, a mall and a movie theater.
"The move to the GRB was part of a partnership with the GHCVB," Heckman said, "and a strategy to rapidly grow the event and broaden its scope and scale."
Among the benefits of Comicpalooza taking place at the GRB are the central location, loads of parking, access to Convention Center District hotels such as the Hilton Americas-Houston, proximity to restaurants and "enough space to accommodate the exceptional growth," Heckman said.
As Comicpalooza has found, the meeting and expo space at the GRB is "conveniently laid out," Heckman said. On top of that, having Discovery Green just outside the convention center's front door adds to the attendees' experience.
Simons, the founder, called Comicpalooza "the largest and most intricate convention in Texas."
"Our intent from the time I wrote the business plan was to create a national convention. Each year the bar goes up," Simons told the Houston Chronicle.
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