Otakon moving to D.C. in 2017 is big get for convention center

The organizers of Otakon, the Japanese and East Asian anime and culture convention that has been held in Baltimore for the past 14 years, will bring the event to D.C. in 2017.

The event will stay in D.C. for at least four or five years, according to the Otakon announcement, which also took a bit of a dig at the aging Baltimore convention center.

The move is good news for Events D.C., the sports and entertainment authority that runs the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which has been trying to attract more events from new markets.

Otakon attracted more than 34,000 visitors to this year’s event, which ran Aug. 9-11. When it comes to D.C. in August 2017, Otakon will bring a large convention during a summer month that is typically slow for citywide meetings.

The convention center hosted Awesome Con D.C., a comic and pop culture festival, in April and the event drew approximately 7,000 participants. Events D.C. expects the event to double its attendance in 2014, according to Greg O’Dell, president of Events D.C.

“We’re very excited about having Otakon for a couple of reasons,” O’Dell said. “It represents new business for us and it also speaks to our efforts to tap into different markets.”

The convention authority harnessed the efforts of “the entire hospitality community” to make the case for moving Otakon to D.C., O’Dell said. He expects the citywide convention to attract as many as 40,000 attendees and have a $16 million economic impact for the District each year that it’s held here.

Although the concept is similar to the popular regional Comic Con shows, Otakon tends to draw more international visitors — another box Events D.C. has been working to check in recent years.

“We want to help grow that business,” O’Dell said.

So is the traditionally more buttoned-up District ready for tens of thousands of costumed anime enthusiasts? O’Dell thinks so.

“With 1,100 people moving to the city each month, our demographics have changed. The appeal to a younger demographic here certainly helps us,” O’Dell said. “It’s helping people perceive the city as a cool, hip place to be.”

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