By Arvind Radakrishnan / June 7th, 2018
For those of us who are convention goers, it’s an exciting time when you hear that a convention is changing things up for the following year. Whether it be changing times, days or events…or maybe the entire location being shifted, it is always fascinating to see the new changes. As a result, the con can sometimes feel almost totally different. One such convention is a favorite of mine: Castle Point Anime Convention (also known as CPAC), which I’ve attended.
CPAC originated as a convention by Steven J. Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey as a small, but rather pleasant convention hosted on the college’s grounds. It worked well and gave the con a unique appeal, and gained immense popularity comparable to bigger conventions like Otakon. The convention eventually moved from its old college campus to a new location in a convention center as a result of getting too crowded and needing bigger space to capitalize on the convention’s potential, and it worked for the most part.
As it stands, CPAC really does benefit from the newer location in many ways. Many cons tend to suffer from a crowding issue as previously mentioned, and this hindered the convention quite a lot in the past few years, making it hard to get to an event or dealers’ room. For cosplayers, the new location has some rather lovely areas that lend themselves to photo shoots really well. Due to the hotels in the new area, it works well for panels and getting people a place to stay. This does lead to some caveats though; the con now feels a lot more similar to other conventions out there and lacks the calmer, laid back feel, so aesthetically speaking, it certainly lost a lot of charm. This affected locations for cosplay photo shoots too as CPAC’s campus area was unique compared to convention centers, being a varied campus which would work for some particular franchises. Having the New York skyline is a bonus too, which speaks for itself for pictures. The con generally feels a lot busier too, so to say.
The dealers’ room definitely benefited however, with more vendors and none of the line or crowd issues. Even if it may feel similar to other con dealer rooms, that isn’t a bad thing in this case as there are a lot of cool, varied items. The game room was a hit with the likes of DDR and Dragon Ball FighterZ, along with ongoing tournaments and general hype surrounding them. However, the game room ran into quite a number of electrical and technical issues where some arcades were prone to full crashes or general issues. Staff was prompt in fixing the issue, but it was pretty frequent.
Panels, and the overall convention were generally up to par. Strangely, some panels and other events were limited to smaller rooms, which brought back the crowding issue. This was particularly noticeable during the maid café, but that seemed more to be a result of an unexpected turn out issue and problem with the room; the cafe itself was well run however, with the maids being very vibrant and prompt. It was worth going not just for the food, but to see how entertaining they truly were. Though a general complaint with the convention was perhaps the venue costs; many people agreed that it didn’t feel warranted at the higher price point — CPAC was originally $15, while the new location is $30. It’s not bad due to the new location needing a higher cost, but it didn’t feel like it had enough to justify over the old price point. You could mainly get the same events at the old location for cheaper. Additionally, registration was a massive nightmare due to rain going on Saturday, which forced people to stay outside for hours in the downpour. Again, this was due to poor management and unexpected turn out.
In conclusion, CPAC proves that conventions can definitely benefit from a larger venue. Certainly it’s been seen with conventions like Otakon that benefited so well from the larger area with no downsides, while retaining their identity, charm, and even gaining more positive things for the convention. However, CPAC’s main appeal was being a smaller convention in a more conventional setting and not in the standard convention center. At its new location, there is a new feel, and though it works it may turn off veterans. The convention still has potential however, and it’s honestly inspiring to see how big a convention can become from such humble beginnings. It’s honestly worth visiting.
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