Thanks to the surging rage of nerd culture, not to mention celebs from Lord of the Rings, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, both the Tampa Bay Comic Con and its host site, the Tampa Convention Center, shattered attendance records during last weekend's three-day salute to popular culture.
Comic Con drew some 44,000 revelers Aug. 1-3 — from those in tight superhero regalia to mere lookie-loos curious about the growing fuss. That tops 2013's haul of 28,000.
But wait, boys and Batman freaks, there's more: On Saturday alone, 29,814 revelers pushed through the doors, a new single-day attendance record for the downtown building. Rick J. Hamilton, director of the convention center, said the previous single-day high was probably during the Republican National Convention in August 2012, when about 15,000 people were in the building at one time.
"Comic Con went well, very minor problems," Hamilton said of the Spidey-enthused, and yet altogether peaceful, throngs. "It was just a matter of directing all of those folks."
Action 3 Events & Promotions, which stages Comic Con, reported that downtown Tampa's hotels felt the chummy boost as well, as Comic Con-ers rented 700 local room nights during the weekend, up from 350 in 2013.
With scores of merchandising booths plus a schedule rife with panels and events (Nerdy Speed Dating!), this year's Comic Con featured such bold-faced names as Evan Peters from American Horror Story, John Rhys-Davies (Sallah!) from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy, who play the totally creepy wee sisters from The Walking Dead.
For as wildly successful as Tampa Bay Comic Con has been, however, its numbers don't come close to the geektastic gathering of 'em all: This year's Comic-Con International in San Diego, which has become a crucial product-launching spot for Hollywood, drew close to 200,000 people.
Action 3's next big Tampa bash is the Cartoon Convention at the convention center Nov. 8-9. Disney princess fanatics prepare accordingly: Voice actors for Belle and Jasmine, Paige O'Hara and Linda Larkin will be meeting and greeting.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife.