The first news item I encountered was a report on the Fox Chicago morning news about the new Schaumburg (IL) Convention Center and its attached (integrated actually) Renaissance Hotel. This led me to think about the facilities needed for a Worldcon.
There is a common wisdom among SMOFs -- albeit I cannot recall the exact numbers -- about the facilities needed to successfully host a Worldcon. There is an amount of function space that is needed, and a number of sleeping rooms that are needed within walking distance of the main facilities.
After looking at a small sample of current and proposed North American Worldcons -- specifically LA Con this summer and the Chicago in 2008 bid -- I've determined that a Worldcon needs about 225,000 square feet of function space. Obviously, the exact function space requirements depend largely on the specific facility -- it would be difficult to run a Worldcon in a single 250,000 square foot exhibit hall, but just as hard to run it in 500,000 square feet of small rooms.
While the Schaumburg facility doesn't appear to have enough space, there are other smaller convention centers that could easily supply the needed space without the need to share space with other events. Almost every North American Worldcon I've been to has had other events in the same facility (a large Church conference in Philadelphia, Canadian Idol in Toronto, a home show in Anaheim this year, the Jerry Lewis Telethon in Chicago -- which won't happen in 2008, or so I've been told by the people who have reviewed the contract) or at least have been unable to use all of the facility (if I recall correctly, the rest of the San José convention center was vacant. However, it would seem more comfortable if the Worldcon could fill the entire facility.
As an aside, the Chicago in 2008 bid has the entire downtown Hyatt this time, so it should be the only function and probably won't leave any space unused.
I'm beginning to suspect, however, that what keeps Worldcons out of the smaller facilities that are otherwise perfectly sized is the lack of hotel rooms close enough.
I just did a check, and confirmed that the entire Albuquerque Convention Center is just about the right size -- I just estimated the total floor space so I might be off. Not counting the local support etc. that would be needed for a Worldcon bid, the think that would kill any idea of a Worldcon in that facility would be the hotel rooms. If I recall -- and its been a few years since I last performed this exercise -- there are only about half the necessary rooms in the hotels in Downtown Albuquerque for a Worldcon. The rest of the rooms would have to be made up at the other large and medium sized hotels around Albuquerque. I think the last time I performed this exercise I came up with Worldcon having to use the former Sheraton near Old Town (~15 minutes drive), the Marriott in Uptown (~20 minutes drive) and possibly the Sheraton uptown (~20 minutes drive), the Hilton (~15 minutes drive) and possibly either the Crown Plaza (or is it now a Marriott) Pyramid (~25 minutes drive) or the Airport Wyndham (~25 minutes drive) -- which is, btw, hosting Bubonicon for the second or third year this year. Fandom would not stand for having the sleeping rooms that spread out -- it would be worse then Glasgow last year, and people complained then.
Without rigorously running the numbers, and ignoring the missing 100,000 to 125,000 square feet of convention space, I suspect that the problem with a Schaumburg Worldcon would be similar. In addition to the 500 rooms at the attached hotel, Worldcon would need to use the nearby Woodfield Hyatt Regency, the nearly adjacent Embassy Suites, and either a combination of the smaller Radisson and the small hotels just across the toll way, or the more distant Schaumburg Marriott and Arlington Heights Sheraton hotels to get the rooms.
From this, I suspect that Worldcon will nearly always be forced to use part of a larger convention center where it can, essentially, book more of the adjacent hotels than most events that utilize the same function space -- except for when I can find facilities like the Hyatt Regency in Chicago which just happen to be the right size and have enough nearby hotel space.
The second news item I encountered was an extensive article in the Chicago Tribune on the Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics. After reading the article I have some observations about the facilities in the bid.
The Chicago Tribune article gives an overview of the bid, and lists many of the major facilities -- but I suspect not all. The proposal include building a temporary facility between Soldier Field and McCormick Place for Athletics and the Opening and Closing ceremonies -- they also plan to use Soldier Field somehow in these -- using Soldier Field, the Chicago Fire stadium in Bridgeview, and the stadium at Notre Dame for Soccer, The United Center for Gymnastics and Basketball (medal games), The Allstate Arena for Basketball (preliminary games), Hawthorne Park for the Equestrian Events, Palos Hills Forest Preserve for Mountain biking, Maywood (where isn't specified) for the shooting sports, a new aquatic center near IIT, a whitewater facility near South Bend, a rowing lagoon on the lake shore and McCormick Place for the indoor events (fencing, wrestling, weight lifting etc.) as well as the press and broadcast facilities. They would build an Olympic village south of McCormick Place. I don't see where they are planning on having Field Hockey, track cycling or sailing events -- but I suspect that somewhere near Chicago in Lake Michigan will be the sailing venue. Since it looks like Baseball and Softball will still be off the Olympic program in 2016 -- they are being dropped after 2008, and probably won't get reinstated after only one olympiad -- facilities aren't needed for these sports, but I think that there are a couple of good facilities in Chicago (and three more in the suburbs if needed) that would work for these sports if they were needed.
I think I agree with the Tribune that trying to have the ceremonies in two facilities is going to be a hard sell (but could also be easily dropped if needed).
Overall, I think this plan is pretty good, but I have a few quibbles:
- If you are going to put Whitewater so far from the rest of the events, why not put it somewhere in Wisconsin where the kettle moraine creates more rugged terrain than (I suspect) there is near South Bend. You could even put the Whitewater events in Whitewater
- I suspect that a shooting facility further out in the suburbs, in DuPage or Kane county, would be more likely to get post-Olympic use then one in a nearby Cook County suburb where the Chicago centered anti-gun feelings are still fairly strong. Politically, it might also be good to put at least one of the Illinois venues outside of Cook County to make them feel involved.
- If the other major new facility, the velodrome for track cycling, isn't in the plan (it is possible that the Tribune just forgot to list it) then it needs to be added very soon, otherwise the bid may be seen as incomplete.