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The new convention entrance is a major fail

japesterjapester Registered User regular
Strong warning to Robert and the rest of the PAX crew: Please scope out the entrance and predict pedestrian patterns. I don't know who designed the new layout, but it is terrible.

As a little background, I am a local. So I have attended dozens of events and cons at the Henry B Gonzalez Center. I get that it needed an upgrade, and while the inside may be an improvement, the entrance is a mess. My observations are based on Alamo City Comic Con, an event that drew over 70k people the last two years and may have topped 80k this year, so very comparable to PAX.

The entrance is beautiful. But if you stand at the entrance and look out, you see....a wall. Okay, it's more of a wrought-iron fence and embankment, but the result is the same. Foot traffic cannot cross the street. Looking to the right, you have the highway. It is right there. So lots of cars are heading that way, and almost no foot traffic is going to walk that way. Pretty much all of the hotels are to the left of the entrance. That means almost all your traffic is walking to the left, on a narrow sidewalk. Which would be bad enough, except you have to cross three active driveways with their own walk/don't walk signs in a space of maybe 20 feet. And they are not coordinated. So you have hundreds of people at a time being chopped up into tiny groups on the sidewalk, waiting for the lights and dodging cars (which are entering and exiting the hotel via those 3 driveways). It was a real mess.

Luckily, ACCC had contracted for police to be there during some of the busiest times. They had to creatively direct traffic to keep everyone moving safely. Sometimes this meant blocking the 3 hotel driveways to allow pedestrians unobstructed access fora minute. Better still, some officers would simply block all four directions of traffic (there is also a regular intersection right there) and allow pedestrians to cross diagonally and go right into the big parking structure across the street from the old convention center.

If PAX somehow makes use of what is left of the old convention center, it will slightly ameliorate this. People exiting from the Lila Cockrell Theatre emerge on the far side of this mess and are greeted by a crosswalk straight across the street (to the hotel or parking garage) or unblocked sidewalk access to the left down the street towards the other hotels. But even though ACCC used the Theatre, not many people left the convention from that area. It's a long walk down a hallway (the full width of the hotel) to reach the Theatre from the main convention space, so it's a bit isolated. And I assume PAX will mostly be in the new space.

As an addendum, the panel rooms above the open lobby (the 221 and 225 blocks) also have serious routing issues when lots of people head towards them. Scouting them early and planning lines is vital, particularly for the rooms along the narrow side, reachable only via a small bridge. I suggest PAX avoids using these rooms except for staff or for events that will see very light attendance.

I hope this helps. The convention center is beautiful and has a cool Enterprise Next-Gen and Moss Eisley Cantina vibe to some of its rest areas. Plus, food options seem more plentiful and convenient (though I didn't purchase any myself). PAX is a lot more experienced and organized than the local event I intended, so I'm hoping they can sidestep these issues with some forethought.

Posts

  • zerzhulzerzhul Registered User, Moderator mod
    Robert no longer works for PA or PAX. I am certain that they have been scouting out the space though. They actually were going through the new space a bunch last year too. Good data!

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  • japesterjapester Registered User regular
    Sorry to hear about Robert. I just read up on that. Good luck to whomever fills those giant shoes.

    Walking the space is good, but seeing it under load is even better. Hopefully they will be on top of things. ACCC is a local event, and they were caught by surprise by the layout and some of the challenges it posed. If I can provide any other answers, anyone on staff is free to contact me. I'm usually an exhibitor at these events, so I tend to view them with a more critical eye than most attendees even though I'm retired.

  • shimwoodshimwood Registered User regular
    As a Chicagoan, I offer this advice:
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    :P

    South: 1 East: 0 West: 0 Aus: 0
    ClannMorganRILMSCanderson1989KetarKeroanshdwcaster
  • RILMSRILMS Corpus Christi, TXRegistered User regular
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    Ask me about PAX South 2018 Challenge Coins in October
    EtaoinshimwoodMidanThe Hanged Manspool32
  • StinkyTurdStinkyTurd Registered User regular
    Oh god those are the worst.

  • UnimatrixZeroUnimatrixZero Cult Leader / Cosplay Photographer El Paso, TXRegistered User regular
    edited November 2016
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    Based on what I've been told from people who went to Alamo Comic Con, this is the setup OP is referring to, entrance wise.

    UnimatrixZero on
    TheAggroCraig
  • MrBroadstoneMrBroadstone Registered User regular
    If you look at that entrance on Google maps' street view, it is pretty tight. Maybe 1 person wide and 3 garage entrances in a row before the new entrance. There are no nearby crosswalks on the side with the new entrance. Everyone will end up coming from that direction.

  • shimwoodshimwood Registered User regular
    I guess, if anything, it'll at least create a nice, semi-orderly line for security.

    South: 1 East: 0 West: 0 Aus: 0
  • orthancstoneorthancstone TexasRegistered User regular
    I'm presuming the rear entrance/exit into Hemisfair is still available (near the Grotto). Not the most convenient for a lot of people, but for individuals that want to avoid the insanity that's a decent option and it's an easier route down to River level too.

    PAX South 2018 - Jan 12-14!
    Pins!
  • PuritysanPuritysan Lady Purity San Antonio, TXRegistered User regular
    Honestly, I still enter on the Lilla B Crocket Theatre side. XD I get dropped off at the mall so that's the closest entrance for me.... and safest. LOL

  • RenfamousRenfamous Weeb, Unexceptional Cosplayer Houston, TexasRegistered User regular
    I was at Alamo City too and it wasn't nearly as bad as OP makes it seem. The entrance across from the Marriott Riverwalk (walks you past Cockrell Theater) was still a major entry and exit point, and I entered and exited at peak traffic time on Saturday.

    People staying in hotels on the Riverwalk or at the Marriott aren't even going to approach from the main entrance--they'll cross and enter at the Marriott or approach from River level which spits you out next to Cockrell. The only people who would get caught in this theoretical foot traffic jam would be people staying at the La Quinta or MAYBE anyone lucky enough to get into the Marina parking garage before it fills up at 8pm on Thursday.

    I'm not terribly worried.


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  • David CoffmanDavid Coffman Registered User, Penny Arcade Staff, PAX Staff regular
    This is really great feedback, thanks!

    zerzhulahstoddard
  • japesterjapester Registered User regular
    Renfamous wrote: »
    The only people who would get caught in this theoretical foot traffic jam would be people staying at...

    Sorry, but observed data isn't "theoretical". Sounds like you didn't observe it since you chose a different route. Which is great. But it means you missed seeing the constant, daily logjam at the main entrance. Like I said, I'm usually an exhibitor, so I scope things out with a more critical eye than an attendee might. You can't assume everyone will make the same decisions as you. Because it rarely works out that way in practice. (The fact that 2-3 uniformed police were paid to stand on the sidewalk and in that one intersection throughout most of the con just to direct foot and vehicular traffic is also a good indicator that it was a major thoroughfare).

    The map posted by UnimatrixZero spells it out fairly clearly. It's also worth mentioning that the people who did choose the very long hallway to the Lila Cockrell were routinely stopped to allow the lines heading into the theatre to pass by. Alamo City Comic Con was still using the large empty space by the escalators to line up people for upcoming theatre events, and when that line had to load it cut off the hallway, preventing people from entering or exiting that way while thousands of people shuffled by. This also led to some scuffling as people tried to sneak into the line entering the theater, so it had to be policed by a tight cordon of enforcers to keep things organized.

    After attending so many PAXen, I have faith the staff will manage the crowd a little better than what I experienced. :)

  • macrogeekmacrogeek Registered User regular
    Keep in mind other cons usually don't have a dedicated line management team. PAX is really good at laying out line routes in advance.

    Beigh
  • japesterjapester Registered User regular
    macrogeek wrote: »
    Keep in mind other cons usually don't have a dedicated line management team. PAX is really good at laying out line routes in advance.

    Agreed. They are real pros. I'm curious since the Queue Hall seems to be the space by the escalators that I'm talking about, and it isn't that large. Maybe they'll open up the area behind it. It's hard to tell from the map. But there are doors to snake the line into a room behind that space.

    Unfortunately, the main entrance on the con map is the area I've been talking about. So I guess we'll see what happens. If they instead funnel people into the doors by the Main Theatre (sending them down to the Queue Hall), they'll avoid all those traffic lights. If crowds head to that main entrance, where Registration and the Info Desk are, it will be a logjam in the streets again. And even using the theatre entrance means cutting off traffic for a good while each time the Main Theatre loads. I suggest nobody tries to exit or enter that way if they are running late for a panel or meetup.

  • BekerBeker Child's Play Guy and PAX VR Freeplay Manager SeattleRegistered User, Penny Arcade Staff regular
    Rest assured this is not something we are missing, and is something a lot of people good at lines have talked about. We have a plan, we hope it works well, but we have backup plans if it needs to be tweaked, and we will be watching it carefully. We do appreciate the insight\heads up as David said. Thanks,

    -Beker/Erick
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    hadiwist
  • japesterjapester Registered User regular
    My pleasure, Beker. More than anything, I'm disappointed in the planning commission that developed it this way. I was hoping this expensive upgrade would keep PAX here for a long time, but it is really clunky. It shouldn't be as challenging as it is.

    Good luck!

  • BekerBeker Child's Play Guy and PAX VR Freeplay Manager SeattleRegistered User, Penny Arcade Staff regular
    PAX isn't going anywhere, even if this presents challenges.

    -Beker/Erick
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    japesterorthancstoneUNHMANTofystedeth
  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    Beker wrote: »
    Rest assured this is not something we are missing, and is something a lot of people good at lines have talked about.

    Ahhh so you hired some British consultants?

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  • BekerBeker Child's Play Guy and PAX VR Freeplay Manager SeattleRegistered User, Penny Arcade Staff regular
    Beker wrote: »
    Rest assured this is not something we are missing, and is something a lot of people good at lines have talked about.

    Ahhh so you hired some British consultants?

    "Top men"

    -Beker/Erick
    NDoOjUb.png
    Beighorthancstone
  • japesterjapester Registered User regular
    Beker wrote: »
    Rest assured this is not something we are missing, and is something a lot of people good at lines have talked about.

    Ahhh so you hired some British consultants?

    I don't know if I trust British workmanship any more than our own.

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