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San Diego’s Convention Center Receives Well-Deserved Upgrades

When the San Diego Convention Center opened its doors in 1989, it was a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility. Two years later, San Diego Comic-Con moved in, and the relationship has been symbiotic ever since. The convention expanded in 2001, doubling its square footage. Since then, however, any further expansion efforts have sputtered and stalled.

Luckily, the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank approved a loan of $25.5 million for infrastructure upgrades — with another $3.6 million covered by center operations and the city budget. While the full project isn’t scheduled for completion until 2018, many of the aspects — from floor replacements to the  Sails Pavilion to new Hall H chairs (!) — are in various stages of completion.

From the San Diego Convention Center’s website, here are some highlights of upgrades that will be in place in time for SDCC 2017:

Sails Pavilion Concrete Floor Replacement

The concrete floor in the Sails Pavilion was completely removed and replaced, including the walkway between the convention center and Ballroom 20.

Cooling Tower Replacement and Chiller Tie-In

SDCC 2016 was a particularly hot one. San Diego is not used to that much heat and humidity, especially downtown, and it became apparent that the convention center could not handle 130,000 sweaty nerds, many of whom slept in the Hall H Line the night before. To that end, the convention center (to everyone’s appreciation) upgraded all five of its cooling towers. The new chillers were then tied into the convention center’s chilled water loop to keep us all nice and cool.

Hall H Chairs

Hall H may not be any easier to get into in 2017 — but it will be more comfortable to sit in. The chairs in Hall H have recently been upgraded with “new super comfortable chairs”, according to San Diego Convention Center Vice Chair (no pun intended) Gil Cabrera. For those planning to stay in Hall H all day, that should make for a much more pleasant experience.


Restrooms. We all need them. The convention center already had most of their restrooms upgraded since 2010, but there were three at the back of Exhibit Halls A-C that hadn’t yet been upgraded. This year, the convention center was able to complete those upgrades, so all restrooms are now clean and state-of-the-art (though it’s anyone’s guess how long they’ll stay that way during San Diego Comic-Con). Below is an example of one of the finished restrooms.

Finished Exhibit Hall Restroom (from

Lighting and Ceiling Tiles

Be honest: How often do you look up when you’re at San Diego Comic-Con? If you do this year, you will see significant improvement in the upper level and mezzanine ceiling tiles as well as the light fixtures in the Exhibit Halls. All of the Exhibit Halls, including Hall H, replaced the harsh fluorescent lights with new, softer, energy-efficient LEDs. This means it costs the convention center less to provide us with more light as we’re strolling through Artists Alley or struggling for that must-have exclusive at the WB booth.

If you spend more time in the mezzanine or upper levels, the brand-new ceiling tiles may be what catches your eye. The convention center replaced the original tiles, installed in 1989, with new ones.

Escalator and Elevator Modernization

We’ve all ridden them to get to our respective lines. Whether we’re going to Ballroom 20 or the Sails Pavilion, you’ve most likely used the elevators or escalators to get there. So far, they’ve upgraded a little fewer than half of the elevators and escalators in the convention center. These herculean tasks are expected to be completed by late 2018/early 2019.

Upcoming Projects

There are still a few projects that haven’t quite been started yet, but they are funded and set to begin in earnest once SDCC 2017 is over, including:

  • Fabric Roof Structure Replacement (August 2017 – January 2018)
  • Fire Cannon Replacement (August 2017 – January 2018)
  • Retrofit Fire Life Safety System (February 2017 – November 2018)

Even though the convention center won’t be bigger, we will see some significant improvements inside. Which of the improvements/upgrades are you most excited to see? Let us know in the comments.

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