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The (economic) force is strong with Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle

Emerald City Comic Con 2024 arrives Thursday, much to the glee (and bustle) of downtown Seattle restaurants and shops.

“We are anticipating a rush," said Stephanie Rodrigues, store manager at Homegrown, a sustainable sandwich shop just up the street from the Seattle Convention Center, on Melrose Avenue. It's one of a few shops in the area that offers takeout options.

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Rodrigues said the anticipated rush for conventions like this runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (so it's probably a good idea to place an online order en route to the shop, just to speed things up).

"What we typically do is we prep more — we make sure we have meats prepped, cheeses prepped. We make sure we have enough staff," Rodrigues said. "We just think of long lines, long rushes. We are a local business so we do anticipate trying to cover that business."

Rodrigues added that the shop also considers how much business might be lost, as Homegrown is a cozy space when contrasted against the 85,000 attendees that Emerald City Comic Con expects to arrive in downtown this week.

The convention boasts an array of guests, such as Chris Evans (Captain America), Christopher Lloyd (Doc from "Back to the Future), Christina Ricci (Addams Family, Yellowjackets), Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings), Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), and many more.

Comic con fans will likely visit restaurants, shops, and other attractions around the convention center between Thursday and Sunday. That adds up to roughly $26.5 million in estimated local economic impacts, just from Emerald City Comic Con, according to Visit Seattle.

“Emerald City Comic Con has been a staple of our city for years,” Visit Seattle Senior Vice President Kelly Saling said. “It’s a weekend we circle on our calendars as an opportunity to celebrate the region’s spirit of creativity, innovation, and storytelling. This is a weekend filled with color, curiosity, and comradery. At Visit Seattle, our team loves working alongside ReedPop, Emerald City Comic Con’s producers, to make this an enriching event for both attendees and Seattle at-large.”

To put some of these numbers in perspective, the expected 85,000 attendees come as Emerald City Comic Con rebuilds from pandemic slowdowns. Before 2020, attendance reportedly reached 98,000. The average attendance at a Seahawks game at Lumen Field in 2023 was 68,735, and the average attendance of a Mariners game at T-Mobile Park was 33,215.

While Visit Seattle can estimate the convention's economic impact this year will be around $26.5 million, it doesn't have data available on the economic impacts of standard sports games. It does, however, look at other special events in the city, such as the NHL Winter Classic that was held on New Year's Day at T-Mobile Part (Kraken vs Vegas Golden Knights). That special sports event had an estimated local economic impact of $30 million.

Note: Emerald City Comic Con is a four-day annual event. Sports games are single-day events, but happen throughout an entire season.

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Saling noted that Emerald City Comic Con is using two buildings at the Seattle Convention Center in 2024 — the Arch and Summit buildings. That’s a lot of space for vendors, writers, artists, and celebrities.

Steven Morales, who owns Dpad Retro Gaming in downtown Renton, said he's been operating a booth at Emerald City Comic Con for eight years, even before he had a brick and mortar store. His booth is now an extension of the store, filled with retro video gaming, toys, and cards.

“For us, it is definitely big revenue," Morales said. "Usually, we end the holidays pretty strong. We have a little bit of a slow period, and then March comes [with Emerald City Comic Con], and it’s good for us.”

Inside the convention is an array of small businesses like Dpad, many of whom make regular appearances at Emerald City Comic Con, and other events. The show floor is filled with crafters, artists, writers, clothing makers, coffee roasters, wood carvers, tattoo artists, and more. It's an indie business scene unto itself, with many who rely on such events to make a living.

“When the pandemic hit and everything got shut down, it was a big blow for all businesses, including us," Morales said. "That particular year, I had it all mapped out, and I was looking forward to that Emerald City.

"Last year was great. It was a slower start, but we still did great, financially, it was totally worth it for us," he added. "This year, I think it’s going to be even better. It looks like everyone is ready to come back out again.”

Traffic impacts around Emerald City Comic Con 2024

The multi-day event also adds up to traffic in the downtown core with costumed characters embarking on a journey to the convention center.

A spokesperson with the Seattle Department of Transportation said it “proactively prepares for large events” like Emerald City Comic Con, however, “Unlike events with defined start and end times, such as hockey or baseball games, Comic Con traffic flows gradually throughout the event.”

Keep an eye on any up-to-date traffic signs around downtown, which may display disruptions or alternative routes.

RELATED: What's behind Downtown Seattle's slow pandemic recovery?

It's also worth noting that the Washington State Department of Transportation plans to close a section of I-5, south of downtown, overnight during Emerald City Comic Con weekend.

Southbound I-5 between Albro Place and mid-Boeing Field will be reduced to one lane from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. Traffic will then open up to two lanes of traffic until Monday morning. This work is to replace concrete panels on the roadway, and provide maintenance on expansion joints and other needs.

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