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Comic-Con to remain in San Diego through 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The annual Comic-Con pop culture convention will remain in San Diego through 2021, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Friday.

The mayor said he had negotiated an agreement between the San Diego Convention Center and Comic-Con International to keep the event in town for another three years. The previous aggreementwas set to expire after 2018.

"San Diego has always been the proud home of Comic-Con and we are extremely pleased that we can carry on that tradition of being the destination for the world’s premier celebration of the popular arts," Mayor Faulconer said. "It is more important than ever that we continue to push to expand the convention center so we can ensure Comic-Con and other large conventions continue to stay in San Diego for years to come."

Comic-Con is the Convention Center's largest annual event and it generates about $135 million for the local economy and $2.8 million in taxes for the city, Faulconer said. The event began in the 1970s as a three-day event held at the U.S. Grand Hotel with about 300 attendees. It now runs for five days, uses the entire Convention Center and sells out every year with about 130,00 attendees.

Comic-Con is the "longest and most important convention in San Diego,'' San Diego Tourism Authority President Joe Terzi said, calling the convention "our Super Bowl.''

But Comic-Con's board of directors has warned city officials the convention could leave San Diego after outgrowing the city's convention center, and other cities like Anaheim have been trying to snare the convention.

Faulconer, Terzi and Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said the three- year extension doesn't negate the need to expand the convention center, which is one of the mayor's top priorities.

Earlier this month, the mayor was unable to get the City Council to schedule a special election for November, in order to place an expansion project before voters. His plan was to raise hotel room taxes to pay for enlarging the facility by 400,000 square feet, and creating dedicated funding streams for street repairs and programs for the homeless.

Since the special election proposal was defeated, Faulconer's expansion plan wasn't considered by the council -- though it could land on the November 2018 general election ballot. A previous financing plan was successfully challenged in court.

The city faces another obstacle in that land needed for a larger convention center is now controlled by an entity called Fifth Avenue Landing, which is obligated by its lease with the Port of San Diego to build hotels on the property. The port owns the land along the bayfront, including under the convention center.

"These three additional years are going to go by real quickly," Faulconer said. "Our convention center must be expanded if we want to keep Comic-Con and other major events in our city."

The extended agreement means Comic-Con will celebrate its 50th pop- culture convention in San Diego in 2019.

"Today is a day of celebration," Glanzer said at the news conference. "We're incredibly happy about this agreement."

The deal came following months of negotiations between city and convention center officials, the tourism authority and area hotels, which offer overflow event space and blocks of rooms.

This year, Comic-Con opens with preview night on Wednesday, July 19 and runs through Sunday, July 23.