The good, let’s start with the positive:
The Hotel: This is a very nice facility, aside from the elevators and subsequent cascading events from the elevators I find this hotel to be one of the nicest the convention has chosen.
Board/Staff/Volunteers – The FWA team always strive to provide that southern hospitality, this year was no different. From staff just greeting me in the halls to the expeditious way that I was processed through registration all the way to the constant replenishment of the con suites your staff has exemplified themselves.
God Level Suite – What can I say, the food was great, I would personally recommend going back to Jersey Mikes for the lunch subs as I heard a number of people not get subs due to the limited numbers of sandwiches on the platters an others taking 2-3 of them. The Cheese was awesome, only comment there is MORE CHEESE MORE CHEESE (I am a cheese fiend in case you couldn’t guess).
Both Con Suites – The snack and soda variety was great, I liked some of the new options this year. The view was great, it was actually kind of interesting that the suites overlooked the 2 previous hotels and made them look so small (Especially the Sheraton)
Entertainment – What I was able to get to was great but missed a lot of events due to elevator issues, more on that later.
The guests/room parties – While you cannot control the guests or the room parties, it was great to reconnect with old friends and make new friends. A Couple of the room parties I went to were off the hook.
The air conditioning – As a fursuiter, being able to stay in suit is important to me however I found that due to the temperatures and waits on the landings, the few times I did suit, I was exhausted by the time I got to the con floor. Then once in the con space the temperatures were still very uncomfortably hot. I am no sure the convention can do anything about the temperature, but it was less than Ideal
The lack of social area- the convention needs to consider having a dedicated social area with chairs/tables/etc that is in a general area for folks to just sit and chat. Doing so in the corridors creates an impedance to movement and given the tight areas between the halves of the convention space this could become an issue. Perhaps an internet café might be ideal.
The Guests – SIGH, while this is not an issue with the convention itself, we do have a number of socially inept members of our community. Yes a convention is a time to let you hair down and relax and enjoy yourself, this is also a time when the furry community is under the public eye and we need to put our best foot forward. This is not directed at the 90+% of members who comport themselves with some level of modesty, courtesy and dignity, this is directed at the <10% who feel that they can do whatever they want. I saw during this convention both the best and worst of the congoers. I witnessed people getting off the elevators to allow a fursuiter on who had been waiting on the landings. I also witnessed people push fursuiters out of the way after the parade to pile onto the elevator. I witnessed a couple furs simulating sex in the hallway with kids in the room immediately adjacent to where they were doing it. When I mentioned it to them about the kids, I was told to mind my own business it was 2 am. I have also witnessed our con guests being rude and obnoxious towards other hotel guests not with the convention. If we comport ourselves in this negative way and repeatedly cause problems for hotels, THERE MIGHT NOT BE AN FWA AFTER SOME TIME. If we cannot find a hotel to house us due to a bad reputation there goes the convention. Just some common since and courtesy will make everyone’s lives better an make the convention more enjoyable for us as well as those around us. Simple stuff such as allowing non convention guests to have priority on the elevators, allowing fursuiters priority especially when returning from the convention floor when they may NEED to get out of suit to avoid passing out. Simply greeting non convention guests in the elevator in a pleasant manner and wishing them a nice day as they exit. These simple courtesies while they may seem trivial will go a long way towards smoothing over where there are rough edges.
The convention space – 1st major problem is having the convention on 5 different floors (Well 4 plus one you had to pass through). This makes the area very confusing and VERY hard to patrol for your security staff as well. I was constantly having to refer to the maps to remember what floor and what half of the floor I needed to be on to attend the events I could make.
The Elevators- OK, now we get to the major crux of most of the headaches for the weekend. To put it bluntly the elevators SUCK, at best they could hold say 15 people and there were only 4 elevators for the upper and 4 elevators for the lower half of the hotel. The 2 middle elevators, I am not sure what they do, but they never seemed to work (I only got one of them maybe 3-4% of the time I requested an elevator). It was no uncommon for me to have to spend 30-45 minutes waiting for an elevator and having numbers of full elevators stop and leave each time I needed one to go from the room floor to the convention or vice versa, getting to the con suites was marginally better, but I feel having them on 66 and 69 added to the elevator taxation. Due to these inordinate waits and the heat on the landings I did not suit as much as I wanted nor did I make many of the events I wanted because on more than one occasion I went 15-20 minutes before the event to goto the elevator and the event would be WELL underway by the time I hit the convention space. I did some brief calculations based upon the 2400 guests at FWA and assuming the elevator stops at every landing and it takes 30 seconds to stop, open the doors, tell people your elevator is full and the doors to close and start moving again, assuming also an equal distribution of the 2400 guests over all of the room floors the existing elevators would allow for a full movement of all guests only once every 6 hours. Considering the number of large events in the con space and the lack of available stairs to directly access the con space this makes the movement of guests to and from events untenable. While this hotel is a very nice facility, I think it is incompatible with the traffic flow patterns associated with such a large and dynamic convention as FWA. See my suggestions below for MY concept on how this could be resolved.
The hotel staff- Well my issues with this hotel started with parking when I arrived. I had to wait in a line backed up to peachtree when I arrived and it took over an hour to get to where I could unload my stuff an move towards my room, but this is not to be unexpected during a major check in day, just startling because it had not happened before. I usually pull up, unload, valet the car and get in the hotel in less than 15 minutes at every other FWA before. On check in day the staff was very pleasant and helpful however as the weekend progressed, it appeared the hotel staff became less and less friendly and in a couple cases rude, this however may be a function of the elevator issues and complaints from non-convention guests due to the behaviors of a few of our less socially adaptable members as well as the elevator overcrowding. Towards the end of the weekend, I found the HOTEL security staff (the ones wearing badges) watching the con guests as if they expected to have to intervene at any second.
Suggestions going forward:
I am not one to offer a complaint or concern without also offering a possible solution, while you may not accept or take my suggestion, I won’t be known and one who only points out problems and not solutions.
New facility – As stated this is a beautiful facility. The rooms were well appointed and the view, in most cases, none better, but the vertical format does not lend itself to a convention of this sort where there is large shifts of people to and from their rooms. The lack of stairs along with the limited elevators makes a horizontal format much better. The convention should also strive to have a hotel that has stair access directly to the convention floor instead of having to rely upon the elevators or exiting the building and re-entering (Also walking down 28 flights of stairs let alone 60+, not happening in fursuit or out).
My suggestion would be perhaps this convention has gotten to the point that no one hotel can handle it effectively, I would recommend that the hotel look at splitting the load among 2 hotels. Where could this be done effectively, look no further than FWA’s former home at the Hilton, The 2nd floor of the Hilton has a bridge that directly and easily connects to the marquis level of the Marriott Marquis hotel. This would allow for the convention to be maintained on a single level with only a bridge connecting the 2 halves of the convention. At a brief glance by placing registration, the main events rom staff lounge and the poker/blackjack tourneys in the Marriott the Hilton could easily house the remainder of the convention with space to spare. You could then offer a 2 tier hotel rate with prices for rooms in the Hilton and rooms in the Marriott.
By splitting between the hotels you then load balance the guests between the hotels and take advantage of the 8 elevators in the Hilton and the 13 elevators in the Marriott giving the ability to load split the movement of guests among the 21 elevators instead of just 8. Also both hotels are greatly shorter with a more horizontal layout which means guests can travel using stairs much more readily from the lower floors to the convention spaces. I am not sure what this kind of layout would mean for the convention budget as far as costs for convention space, but after paying close to $1000 to attend the convention I would have liked to have been able to ATTEND the convention instead of spending the bulk of the convention waiting for elevators.
Also by moving to these two facilities you would be only using about 1/3 of each of their convention spaces thereby allowing for greater expansion as the years progress.
I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks, all comments here are my own personal opinions.