Monday, August 15, 2011

GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Facilities

You can't meet great people and hold great events without a good facility in which to do that. For this GenCon wrap-up post, I want to talk a little bit about the convention center and the hotel accommodations I had while there.

The Indianapolis Convention Center recently went through a major remodel, and the results (at least to me) were fantastic. Huge volumes of convention floor space were added, allowing plenty of room for everyone. Sure it was crowded at times, but for the most part, people traffic kept moving, and I never really felt like I was in a "jam". Of course, all that extra space means that there's a bit more walking to do. By the end of the convention, my feet were complaining pretty loudly.

My biggest complaint about the convention center (and I don't believe it's a new complaint), is the escalators. Seriously, just hire one guy who's only job is to make a circuit around the building and reset the "tripped" escalators. I'm almost certain that what's happening here, is that too much weight ("gamer" sized people) hits the escalator at once, and safety features shut it down. I'm cool with that, but a guy should be able to come around quickly and reset it. I realize I should just suck it up and appreciate the opportunity to work off a bit more "gamer fat", but when your feet hurt and you're dog tired, it would be nice to keep the escalators running!

Despite that complaint, it continues to amaze me how wonderful it is to have the convention center linked to a major mall and a great number of other hotels via the Skywalk. While getting the "lay of the land" took a little while, it's nice to be able to travel everywhere without having to step outside (especially in the heat of August) at all. One bit of advice. Look for the overhead signs in both the Convention Center, the Hotels, and within the Skywalk itself. They are actually very good at directing you to your destination. Don't be afraid to look up and use them! 

Let's move on to the hotel, shall we? I was grateful for being able to get a room at all (thanks again, Tom Cadorette!), so the room we ended up with was at the J.W. Marriott. This Marriott is a brand new hotel (6 months old), shiny and full of pretty art, nice eating establishments, and all the other fine amenities that come with a fancy hotel. In fact, because we lucked into the room, I'm hesitant to say anything at all, lest I come across as being ungrateful. Far from it. Nevertheless, the hotel could have done some things to make staying there much more worthy of the money we spent on the room.

Housekeeping service was pretty awful. I tried to communicate on the first day, that except for towels & trash, housekeeping didn't really have to do anything else to the room. I wonder if they misunderstood. They only replaced the towels for two days and failed to replace any bathroom tissue at all. I suppose I should have complained louder, but by the time it became a real issue, the convention was nearly over. I can't comment on how well the Marriott would have responded had I indeed complained, but I really shouldn't have had to worry about that in the first place.

Internet service was abysmal and horribly expensive. Internet service in the hotel was billed out at $12.95 a day. I tried it on day one, but there were constant pop-ups and general roadblocks to being able to easily access the internet from the room. It was such a hassle, that I simply didn't use it for the rest of the time. This kind of cost is bullshit. I realize that the more expensive a hotel, the more basic amenities cost, due to the fact that such hotels rely on business expense accounts to pay for all of these services. It's pretty sad, though, that I can stay at a Motel 6 and get free internet and not at the Marriott. I'm probably pissing into the wind on this issue, but it still irritates me to no end. I can only hope that 4G rolls out in more areas soon. I can just use my smartphone then.

Finally, we were less than impressed with the climate control in our room. We had to keep it set at maximum coolness at all times, just to cool the room to an acceptable level. I spoke to some other convention goers staying at the same hotel, and they mentioned that their room was like an icebox. Those folks were on a higher floor, so maybe the building is cooled from the top down. Still, inconsistent climate control is a problem. After spending all day in a warm, people filled environment like the convention, it would have been nice to come home to a cool friendly room. We didn't get that, and it was a little disappointing.

Despite all these issues, however, I have to say that our customer service at the J.W. Marriott was outstanding. I want to set aside special recognition for our concierge. His name escapes me (and I was careless not writing his name down), but he was friendly, helpful, and even tolerant of customers that made silly requests. He helped balance out some of the issues we had, simply by being a most excellent concierge. I also want to praise the staff of the Velocity Sports Bar and the friendly and helpful waitress at the hotel restaurant where we had Sunday breakfast. While some bumps in Housekeeping obviously need to be sorted out, the other folks at the hotel did a fine job.

Looking back, our stay at GenCon this trip was a mix of good and "could have been better". I won't say "bad", because the issues we experienced weren't so terrible they ruined out convention experience. Anna & I will take what we learned from this year's trip to prepare ourselves for next time.  Whether that's a different hotel, or simply being more proactive about getting our money's worth, we should have a more pleasant stay next time.

In my final GenCon report in a couple of days, I'll show you the awesome goods I acquired. Because that's what you really want to know about, right?

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.


  1. I have to agree with you on the internet point. The fact that I could stay in pretty much any "non-4 star" hotel and get free internet, but have to pay for it in a so-called "luxury" hotel seems kind of backwards. I mean, doesn't the word "luxury" imply access to the sorts of amenities you can't find elsewhere? Yet the complete opposite it true. I don't care if internet speeds were T1 speed with no popups, I still wouldn't have paid $13/day for it. Knowing that it was slow and ad-riddled only confirms that I made the right decision.

  2. @Benoit Yeah, in this day & age it pretty much sucks. It's pure money grab on the part of the hotel. They know that they can have business expense accounts paying for the service, so they try to make it a revenue stream. Which is fine until "ordinary joes" like myself want the access.

  3. I’ve stayed at the Omni the past 3 years and it’s fantastic. The price is about the same as the other downtown hotels. The internet service is complimentary and reliable. I had absolute control over the temperature in my room and the housekeeping service was fantastic. Basically the opposite of everything you had issues with at the J.W. Marriot.

  4. for a long time, assist to a GenCon was the dream of my life, all the time that I watch the pictures of this event, I see pretty girls for everywhere, disguised like characters, but specially there's one that drive me crazy, the famous pokemos cosplayer Jessica Nigri, oh my sweet God! what a girl!!!