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Phoenix Comicon moves to all-paid staff for future conventions

Posted: 1:59 PM, Jan 24, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-25 09:03:41-05

Phoenix Comicon has altered course regarding staffing for its upcoming convention.

In a letter emailed to media, staff and former Con volunteers, director Matthew Solberg said he would move to hire an all-paid staff at this year's Phoenix Comicon. (You can read the full letter at the end of the article).

The news comes after Solberg and his team received backlash and concern on social media last month from con attendees after announcing that volunteers would have to join the Blue Ribbon Army, a Phoenix social club for Con and geek-culture fans. Memberships to Blue Ribbon Army started at $20.

He presented two options to the geek community -- go to an all-paid staff that would significantly reduce the number of people able to work the convention or partner with a social club that required a membership fee.

Solberg said in a previous letter that Phoenix Comicon had to make changes because of labor laws and to hold volunteers accountable for their shifts.  

Comicon attendees were concerned about having to pay to volunteer and potential conflicts of interest between Solberg and Blue Ribbon Army. (Solberg resigned his position from BRA's board.)

In his letter sent out Tuesday morning, Solberg said, "While this was not the original decision as announced three weeks ago, nor was this the option selected by most of our volunteers, we do believe this is the best decision long term for our company and our conventions based on feedback and concerns raised."

"It avoids further controversies as this industry changes, keeps us compliant with changing laws, and increases the professionalism and effectiveness of our team."

Kristin Rowan, the marketing manager for Phoenix Comicon, said in an email that the number of paid positions had yet to be determined, but that it would include "part-time staff, independent contractors, and temp. staff on-site."

She said positions would be posted on Square Egg Entertainment's website when available.

Those who volunteered at last year's convention and is not selected for a paid position will receive two passes to Phoenix Comicon this year and next year "as our gift," according to the letter.

Square Egg Entertainment in the parent company for Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Fan Fest, Minnesota Fan Fest and Keen Halloween. The staff changes affect all events.

Phoenix Comicon will take place May 25-28 at Phoenix Convention Center. Officials have begun to announce the celebrity panelists. They include Jason David Frank (Power Rangers), David Anders (Alias, Heroes, The Vampire Diaries), Sean Maguire (Once), Osric Chau (Supernatural) and Ciara Renee (Arrow).

Visit www.PhoenixComicon.com for ticket information, hours, schedule and programming.

FULL LETTER:

January 23, 2017

After much deliberation, we have decided to shift to an all paid staff in the operation of Phoenix Comicon and all events associated with Square Egg Entertainment, including Phoenix Fan Fest, Minnesota Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween.

There are many individuals who helped make Phoenix Comicon one of the best run conventions in the country.  To them we owe our sincerest thanks and gratitude.  We hope that many of those who assisted us will apply for the new paid positions as we announce them.  In appreciation for everything you have done for us, those who served as volunteers in 2016 who are not selected for positions will receive two complimentary full event passes for Phoenix Comicon 2017 and 2018 as our gift.  

We continue to support Blue Ribbon Army as a corporate member and through promotion of their group and activities.  We look forward to what they can accomplish and are excited to be a part of it.

While this was not the original decision as announced three weeks ago, nor was this the option selected by most of our volunteers, we do believe this is the best decision long term for our company and our conventions based on feedback and concerns raised.  It avoids further controversies as this industry changes, keeps us compliant with changing laws, and increases the professionalism and effectiveness of our team.    
 

As this discussion consumed social media and news outlets over the past three weeks, we have continued to work behind-the-scenes on making our events for 2017 stellar.  We look forward to sharing announcements on our upcoming guests and content at all our shows.  
 

Phoenix Comicon will continue to thrive and be a source of joy for thousands of attendees this year and in future years.
 

Thank you all for your discourse and feedback, 

Matthew Solberg
CEO, Square Egg Entertainment
Convention Director, Phoenix Comicon