My name is Conrad Zero, and I’m a dark fiction author, lifelong RPG gamer and Gen Con fan living in Minneapolis, MN. I grew up attending Gen Con when it was held in Milwaukee, WI. I’ll never forget being surrounded by 30,000 fans of role-playing games, board games, video games, card games, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, anime, manga, writers, artists, cosplayers and furries (before they were called cosplayers and furries) and anyone who simply wanted a venue to let out their inner geek in a place where they would be accepted in all their glorious diversity.
I remember bringing walkie-talkies to stay in touch with my friends while we lost ourselves in the massive dealer space. I remember the breakout gaming sessions, the art show that took hours to browse, and the auction that ran nearly nonstop the entire weekend.
I remember hanging out with 30,000 other geeks at a convention where wearing your squee on your sleeve was not only allowed, but encouraged. You can imagine how disappointed myself and a lot of other Midwesterners were when Gen Con moved to Indianapolis in 2003.
When Gen Con left the midwest, it left behind a hole that has never been filled.
In other words – an opportunity.
When I read this letter from you, and this one, and heard that you were considering relocating Gen Con because of Indiana Senate Bill SB101 (AKA the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) my first thought was, “Hey Adrian, why not hold Gen Con here in Minnesota?” But I bit my tongue, and watched. Looks like you’ve patched things up with Indiana, and the 2015 Gen Con pulled in 61,423 folks. Nice work. And I understand that you have a contract with the city of Indianapolis until 2020. So you probably aren’t interested in moving GenCon to Minneapolis. Fair enough.
But maybe you’d consider opening a division of Gen Con in Minneapolis like you did with Gen Con West. And Gen Con South. And Gen Con East. If my geography is correct, it seems like you’ve missed a spot.
I sincerely request that you consider Minneapolis as a potential location for Gen Con North.
I’ve gathered up the following information which you should find helpful.
Is There A Market For Gen Con In Minneapolis?
Gen Con pulls fans from all over, but it makes sense to host it in a city with an existing local fan base.
Minneapolis has two fan-run conventions that would be most like Gen Con: Con of the North and CONvergence. CONvergence is a sci-fi/fantasy con which pulls in almost 7,000 people on the 4th of July holiday.
Just in case you missed that last part, I’ll say it again: a fan-run sci-fi/fantasy con competing against the 4th of July holiday weekend pulls in 7,000 attendees. (I wasn’t able to find numbers for Con of the North online.)
RPG Gaming, card games and board games are all huge here. The Twin Cities Roleplaying Association has over 1000 members. The Minnesota Pathfinder Society has over 700 members. And there are more comic book, card game, and gaming hobby stores here than you would want to count. And they are always busy. Fantasy Flight Games (recently acquired by Asmodee) is based here in nearby Roseville, MN. Their business is growing with no signs of stopping. They have expanded their store to include a massive gaming room for holding events, including regional card game tournaments.
As one of the administrators for the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, (569 members) I can vouch for the sheer number of creatives in this town. Last I heard, we had the highest number of people working in the arts per capita of anywhere in the US. Minneapolis was recently recognized as the most literate city in the US. The AWP Conference was held here recently, and appx. 13,000 people attended.
Did I mention we love costumes here? The MN Renaissance Festival is one of the largest in the US, pulling in over 300,000 people each year. And there’s the Zombie Pub Crawl, where over 30,000 fans showed up to dress up like zombies (yes, all of them dressed as zombies.) Last year, this event made the Guinness Book of World Records for “the most people dressed as zombies gathered in one place.” I kid you not, nearby Anoka, MN is actually the Halloween Capitol of the World. And don’t even get me started on LARPs. They are all over the place. As well as the new Riddle Room and Trapped Puzzle Room.
The answer is Yes. There are not only a lot of gamers here, but there are a lot of passionate, artistic and (let’s be honest) weird fans here. They would devour a convention like Gen Con. They’re just waiting for someone to book a venue and open the doors.
Could Minneapolis Host A Large Event Like Gen Con?
I know what you’re saying. “Minneapolis is flyoverland, right? Lakes, cows, and cornfields right? Is Minneapolis large enough to handle a crowd of 60,000 hyper-caffeinated con fans?”
Do not let Minneapolis’ population of 400K fool you. You’ll want to take into account the conjoined twin of St. Paul (we call them the Twin Cities) which makes for a population of 700K, compared to Milwaukee’s 600K and Indianapolis’ 852K.
The Mall Of America brings in 40 Million visitors per year, and is currently undergoing an aggressive expansion project to increase that number.
Minneapolis hosted the World Series in 1987 where over 55,000 people attended. It hosted the Super Bowl in 1992, and over 63,000 people attended. We just built the U.S.Bank Stadium which will hold up to 73,000 fans, and you can expect it to be filled when Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl in 2018.
Target Center just got approval for $127 Million in renovations, which will be completed in 2017.
Between the new stadium, the Super Bowl coming to town, the Target Center renovation, and the Mall of America expansion, the city of Minneapolis is up to it’s you-know-what in upgrades and new construction. You can’t parallel park here without hitting new restaurants, hotels, condos, coffee shops or craft brewpubs.
The answer is Yes. Not only does Minneapolis have the capacity to handle a Gen Con right now, it’s in a period of huge renovation and improvement, so this capacity will only increase to grow along with Gen Con.
Venues For Gen Con In Minneapolis
Does Minneapolis have venues that can handle a convention of 60,000 attendees?
The Minneapolis Convention Center has 475,000 square feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms. It hosts the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, which brought in 75,000 people just last summer.
Again, the answer is Yes. There are venues here that would be great for hosting Gen Con, and they would love to see Gen Con come to town just as much as the fans would.
Adrian, feel free to contact me anytime.
- zero at conradzero dot com
- twitter @conradzero
I’ll pick you up at the airport and we’ll tour the Convention Center and have lunch. Perhaps the mayor will join us if she’s interested in $50+ million in revenue, which is what Gen Con currently brings to Indianapolis.
I think you’ll find that Minneapolis would make a great home for Gen Con North.
Thanks much for your consideration.