Steel City Con in Monroeville, PA, is known for bringing in great celebrity guests. Since the end of the pandemic lockdowns, they’ve gone above and beyond, bringing in extremely popular stars such as Chevy Chase, Andy Black, and John Carpenter, plus cast members from popular shows such as Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, and Dexter. They’ve even brought in stars from more “mainstream” media like Sons of Anarchy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and popular personalities such as Paula Abdul, The Undertaker, and Joey Fatone. However, this past Steel City Con, held from December 9th to the 11th, 2022, tested the limits of the Monroeville Convention Center’s capacity and the abilities of convention staff and volunteers when record numbers of attendees came through the doors. And fans were quite vocal on social media about their displeasure at the result.
Fans posted stories about incidents caused by overcrowding. A baby stroller was apparently knocked over with the baby inside. Some attendees reportedly fainted due to the heat inside the venue, caused by so many people within the space. An attendee in a wheelchair was reportedly unable to get to the restrooms through the crowd in time and suffered an embarrassing accident. The fire marshall eventually showed up to restrict access to the building, which caused some to miss out on their prepaid photo ops with guests and actually caused medical issues for attendees who were forced to wait outside in cold December weather.
Issues were made even more complex as many first-time convention attendees came in, perhaps drawn in by the more mainstream and musical guests, and were less certain how to move and behave in a comic-con setting. Those unfamiliar with the amount of merchandise, cosplay, and celebrity guests may have added to the confusion.
Here are a few of the posts that were made on social media:
Owners of Steel City Comic Con,
As of the convention held in December 2022, I will no longer be attending Steel City Comic Con, I will provide a few points of reference.
There are no longer accommodations for disabilities, not enough room for wheelchairs, and no seating for people who can’t stand for long, this makes it difficult to attend if you are disabled or staying the entire day. There were many times people physically could not walk for 15 minutes because of the severity of the overcrowding, it was so bad that an individual in a wheelchair had an accident as they could not make it to a restroom.
I watched a stroller with a baby in it as it was pushed onto the floor by the sheer number of people in the aisles, it could have cost the baby their life. There were 3 people that passed out and it took EMT over 5 minutes to reach them because there were far too many people, if someone had a serious medical episode, their life may have been lost as seconds matter in these situations.
So many people had been let in after capacity was reached on Saturday and Sunday, on Sunday the police and fire department were called to start escorting people out of the building as crowd control. Sunday tickets were oversold, so much so that lines of hundreds of people were denied entry even after purchasing a ticket, even vendors were denied and left to stand outside for hours in the cold and rain.
It has been made obvious to me that this was done out of greed, the level of irresponsibility made it unsafe.
Steel City Comic Con is no longer the convention it used to be, it was a place to meet new people and express yourself through cosplay and community, I am incredibly sad to see the environment many have worked to establish over the years get torn apart. There is no longer a community of people here, only one-time visitors to see a celebrity and never attend again.
I am devastated as I have come to this event for 8 years, I made friends and connections here, I always looked forward to it. After what transpired, I am no longer attending nor recommending this convention to anyone until it can be proven that serious revisions have been made.
I’m really hoping you address the biggest issues. I’ve been coming to every one for 5 years and have never had such a miserable time at SCC than this weekend. It really had me wondering if I wanted to return for future events.
We went on Saturday.
The lines outside are so confusing. No one knows where to go. Pre-bought Tickets should just be scanned at the entrance and then hand us the wristbands.
Once we met who we wanted, we planned on walking through Artist Alley and the Vendors. It was 12:45 and we could not move. We could barely walk, but were getting yelled at to “keep it moving” when we were blocked by a family with a large wagon.
We left. It was awful inside so I can’t even imagine the hotel with the guests who were over there.
So often we hear that you are contractually obligated to the MCC. We hear if you move tickets will be more expensive.
If obligated to stay put…maybe don’t do so many reunions simultaneously. SOA, LOTR, Cobra Kai, Vacation, Stranger Things and the Undertaker were ENTIRELY too many headliners for one event in such a small location. That’s just asking for problems with crowd control and safety.
People pay ridiculous amounts of money for multiple autographs, photos and collectibles … many would pay more per ticket to get in a larger place with more space to move and with better parking.
I’d even pay more to get in to the MCC if tickets were capped and it was actually easier to maneuver.
Maybe utilize the hotel for the panels and photo ops and use the current panel room for artists alley; opening up the current Artist area for celebrities, better lines and more signage?
Many other social media posts pointed out issues with the convention, but the con also had some voices raised in support:
I had a great time and the 3 day pass was well worth it! Can’t wait for March 31st!!
It was awesome like always. Don’t change a thing. You guys rock!!
Steel City Con released a statement to address the numerous complaints:
Thank you for coming to Steel City Con – Dec 9-11, 2022 this past weekend. We appreciate every one of you and want each person to have the best time possible. This weekend, we made some mistakes which caused problems and inconvenience for some customers. For that, we apologize, as it was not our intention; our intention has always been to bring the highest level of guests and vendors to our customers while providing a great experience. At each show, we continue to learn and improve our customers’ experience (for example, adding the hotel in August and doubling our staff in December). This continuous improvement will only strengthen as we refine the experience. We have spent the last few days responding to your requests and have been addressing each one. We will now turn our attention to the issues that occurred this weekend to develop a plan to avoid this from happening at future shows. Again, we apologize for any problems you may have encountered, and we look forward to providing you with an excellent con experience in 2023.
While many people appreciated the apology and acknowledgment of mistakes, there were quite a few who stated they would not return until changes were made. Many suggested a larger venue, while others proposed a smaller line-up of celebrity guests. There were also complaints regarding overcrowding in the panel room, where some attendees had to leave due to the press of bodies, particularly during the Sunday panels featuring Stranger Things and The Lord of the Rings. Staff moved in to restrict the number of attendees inside, but such measures were a little late, as many people had already entered.
Davina Conventions replied to many of the complaints regarding staffing and organizational issues, stating:
I was just brought on in August to address staffing, we are working to build a strong program for training and retaining volunteers. I promise I will continue working to increase our crew size and to get everyone on the same level as staff.
Steel City Con is not the first convention to run into issues due to being too successful at drawing a crowd. Walker Stalker Con had several instances of exceeding capacity and Monster-Mania Con’s Cherry Hill show has run into that issue in the past.
As other conventions have faced those issues and were able to take steps to mitigate them at future shows, it seems likely Steel City Con will do the same. As an amazing line-up for March is being announced, it appears Steel City Con will be tested again. We certainly hope they will rise to the challenge.
To learn more about Steel City Con, visit their website.