As I write this and you read this, the best and most important show of the year will be coming up in Chicago. I have written many times that at this point of the National’s history I believe it is best served by keeping what is a great collectors market in the show rotation. Some argue it should be held there permanently but others point out that if the show does not move around, even a little bit, that there is a belief the NSCC would just end up as a very large regional show.
So that brings us to the next important question, if not Chicago, where? The National goes to Cleveland a lot but I’m personally not a fan of the set up at the I-X Center. While the building itself works fine for a National, the fact that you have to drive or be shuttled there puts a major damper on the event for attendees. If you are a dealer or collector driving to the show you still have plenty of freedom but for many of us, there is little reason to have a rental car just for short drives while in Cleveland.
Frankly that disparate grouping of hotels was one of the key reasons the fabled Net 54 yearly dinner (the closest thing to the old school hospitality rooms in the hobby) was not held last year. Getting back to your hotel is much easier in places like Chicago, where several are located just steps from the Stephens Convention Center. I can tell you from personal experience the shuttle driver took pity on me a few years ago and drove me back to my hotel from the dinner.
So a good National not only has to be able to provide the dealers with avid collectors, it also needs hotel, restaurant and maybe even attractions within walking distance after the show. Baltimore was great for that part of the equation and back in the day, Anaheim and St. Louis worked very well. So how are Anaheim and St Louis as venues?
If only Anaheim was more accessible to East Coast dealers then that would be a great area for the show. There are hotels within walking distance, tons of places to eat and nearby you’ve got Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and the Big A (or whatever the stadium is called nowadays), all easily accessible by taxi. I’d even be a fan of driving out from Texas to Anaheim and seeing the country as I have never driven that way from Dallas.
While it’s been 20 years since we last had a St. Louis National, it’s a great collectors market with some revitalized areas, boosted by the long-term success of the Cardinals as well as the explosion of the Royals on the other side of the state. St. Louis is a baseball town and baseball is still the primary focus of a lot of NSCC attendees.
If one is willing to face the heat, then Texas is actually getting better as a venue as well. There are a decent number of hotel rooms within walking distance of the Dallas Convention Center and although you need a car for evening festivities, I suspect that could partially be made up if the powers in the area (Beckett, Leaf, Panini) all host various events. Having that many major hobby businesses in such an area really helps make a big National show more successful. Houston is more humid than Dallas but at least the George R Brown Center is literally right next to a hotel and a ballpark. What could be better than getting out of bed, spending a day at a show and then waddling over to a ballgame?
But here’s the problem. While the National organizers may want to move the show to fresh places or those cities that haven’t hosted one in a while, the show’s size is now an issue. Here’s what co-founder Mike Berkus told Sports Collectors Daily in a pre-National Q&A last year:
We research every major city in the country for exhibit space. We need a large exhibit area on one floor (350,000 sq. ft. min), will reserve for at least three years out, and will not kill us with union regulations that are prohibitive to our exhibitors. We are not wanted by Anaheim, San Diego, Boston, St. Louis, New York, and San Francisco. All have been contacted this past year. They want 10,000 room nights. We have 5000. They want decorator packages that would run each dealer $2000 each. They want taxes for five different reasons, and every one of those (cities) listed above would only honor a 24 month advance reservations. This does not work for anyone.
We need three years to make hotel room blocks, we are not paying $2,000 per dealer, and we do not have 10,000 room nights that are requested. That is the simple answer. Once we got to the size we are today (1991), we became limited to locations. It’s a tough challenge every year but we continue to contact all major sites.
The NSCC will be in Atlantic City next year, which will be hosting the NSCC for the first time in quite a while. I hope it works out but I have concerns. As the nice young couple who love the hobby and the old cards explained to me at a recent show, instead of going to the National (as they have done the past two years and will again this year), they are going to join SABR and go to that organization’s 2016 convention as their summer vacation.
Atlantic City is hard to fly into (Only Spirit Airlines is direct) and therefore one has to fly into Newark or Philly. To me, that is not a recipe to get the out of towners in but instead will have more deciding whether or not to drive. It’s close to huge metropolitan areas and it’s a tourist-oriented area as well but is it a good place for a big card show?
I’ll be in Chicago this year, for sure, though. I’ve been to just about every National and it’s always great to catch up with hobby friends who are either long-time veterans like me or are still fairly new to the hobby in one way or another.