Archon Leaves Maryland Heights, Returns to Gateway Center
Archon, St. Louis's premier science fiction convention, returns to the Gateway Center in Collinsville after a year at the Westport Sheraton.
Science fiction fans have flocked to St. Louis for more than three decades for cosmic-costumed partying. But for the first time ever, the Westport Sheraton in Maryland Heights hosted more than 2,200 people at Archon 34.
Archon won't be returning to Maryland Heights in 2011 — instead they will return to the Gateway Center in Collinsville, Ill., where organizers held the convention for the past 14 years.
Alan DeVaughn, a member of the Archon convention committee, said the Sheraton was a fantastic, but the convention organizers saw some drawbacks.
"The [Sheraton's] staff were incredibly helpful, but we lost about 10,000 feet in convention space," said DeVaughn. "Plus, we're an October convention. The closest date they could get us for 2011 was in August. That's too close to WorldCon, DragonCon, and other major conventions."
The convention moved to Maryland Heights after the Collinsville Doubletree Hotel changed ownership groups, DeVaughn said. The new owners wouldn't let convention organizers have programming past 1:00 a.m. and they restricted alcohol to the hospitality suite.
DeVaughn said organizers had to change the venue to stay true to the spirit of the convention.
The Sheraton was no stranger to fandom gatherings. Westport Sheraton's Director of Sales Nancy Masterson said the hotel had hosted an anime and sci-fi gaming conventions in the past.
"We were thrilled to have Archon here," she said.
But the Maryland Heights venue turned out to be a mixed success.
Author Allison Stein, who was a convention guest, said the Westport facility dispersed the event's energy too much — placing events among three buildings.
Victor Milan, who attends the convention regularly, said he enjoyed the Westport venu, but had friends who didn't. He enjoyed the central casual space the Sheraton provided.
"I spent some delightful time in the main lobby Friday night just being where I could see and be seen by old friends whom otherwise I might've missed with my demanding con schedule," he said.
Some convincing from the Gateway Convention Center finally swayed the Collinsville Doubletree to back-off on their corporate rules, DeVaughn said.
"We bring in a good economic impact," he said. "After some negotiations, they've agreed to the spirit of Archon. We can keep the dance open until 3 am, we can have room parties in a designated area, the room rates are reasonable, and we get the function space back."
Masterson said she was sorry to see them leave. "In the end, they were a little concerned about space, but they had just as many people that preferred it to be here over the other side of the river. If we had their specific dates available it would've been a difficult decision for them between staying here and moving back."
Archon 35 takes place September 30 - October 2, 2011 at the Gateway Center just across the river in Collinsville, Ill. Pre-registration admission is $50 for the entire weekend and includes a costumed masquerade, art show, gaming, panels to meet authors and other guests, dealer's room full of hard to find specialty merchandise and books, and numerous parties lasting until the hotel closes them down at 3 a.m.