Case Study: Superheroes, villains and pop culture fans storm the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for Awesome Con
As part of our mission at Events DC, it is our goal to attract and provide unforgettable events for both residents and visitors alike. And in an effort to continue to attract and grow a diverse portfolio of events across our three lines of business, we explored the opportunity to push beyond our imagination – and to entice niche and more unique consumer shows to our venues.
In 2013, we welcomed the inception of Awesome Con, a comic book and pop culture fan festival to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Now the question remained, was there a need in Washington, DC – and could Awesome Con help fill a void for comic and pop culture enthusiasts across the Mid-Atlantic region?
Awesome Con is Washington DC’s premier comic con and pop culture convention that celebrates all things pop culture, with a focus on comic books, science fiction and fantasy. During the Con, the Convention Center’s exhibit halls filled with pop culture related exhibits like; Super Art Fight, costume contests, Sci-Fi Speed Dating, and more. Attendees stormed the exhibit halls in their extravagant cosplay varying from comic book to movie screen superheroes—leaving the greater Washington, DC area in awe.
After Awesome Con’s first year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, there was a noticeable demand for expansion to fit the continued growth of attendees comfortably. For Awesome Con’s inaugural event in 2013, there were approximately 7,000 attendees and that number more than tripled in 2014. As a result of its heightened growth, Awesome Con was in need of more space within the Convention Center—from 64,000 square feet to 230,000 square feet. The 259% space increase allowed the Con to add two extra halls and meeting room space.
More recently, in 2015, more than 50,000 superheroes stormed the Convention Center halls — resulting in an overwhelming 614% increase in growth. By 2015, the square footage increased by 635% with 473,000 square feet of space—more halls and 10 extra rooms for programming.
In 2015, the added space from halls A, B, C ultimately enabled more room for more than 100 exhibitors to sell collectible memorabilia, hundreds of booths featuring comic books and collectibles and several additional activities such as; discussion panels, trivia contests, gaming events, kid activities and more.
''For events in growth-mode, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is an ideal venue because our meeting space has the flexibility to grow alongside our customer to meet their needs,'' said Greg O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC.
For its 4th year in 2016, the increased numbers did not stop at square footage and attendees, but also continued in celebrity guest appearances. More than 100 celebrity guests have made appearances at Awesome Con over the years, including iconic William Shatner and George Takei of Star Trek; the original voice actors of all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and cast members of several television shows such as Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Power Rangers and more.
The success and growth of Awesome Con from 2013 – 2016 clearly fulfilled a need in the greater Washington, DC area. The comic book and pop culture festival quadrupled its attendance from 2013 – 2014 and injected $4.5 million into the local economy. At Awesome Con 2016 there were more than 50,000 attendees and 80% of those were from the greater Washington, DC area.
Awesome Con has also helped to fuel the growth of our diverse event portfolio – and its continued success has led to us winning even more one-of-a-kinds to the District – including the famed international convention Otakon – which will debut in Washington, DC in 2017.