Nashicon, the oldest anime convention in South Carolina, held its first gathering at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in 2008 after it outgrew venues on the University of South Carolina campus where the club began. The original convention at the university drew approximately 100 attendees, but by 2008 that number had grown to 1,000. Now, this annual spring event takes place at the CMCC every year.
Anime began as Japanese hand-drawn or computer animation. In the last four decades, it has become an international phenomenon, translated into many different languages. This storytelling format promotes emotional involvement from viewers.
With almost 60 individuals on the Nashicon staff, Christopher Lee is one of seven members on the Board of Directors, and he's a key staffer that makes many of the decisions regarding the direction of the convention. "The convention center has made it so easy for someone who isn't actually an event planner to create an event," he says. "I'm excited to continue working with them. They've become a second family to me and I know almost everyone by name."
We talked with Lee about his experiences at the CMCC and what he likes most about meeting at the venue.
Where are your event participants from?
Our participants are mainly from South Carolina, and the Charlotte area. We've also had people [come in] from Atlanta, which is becoming one of our core areas, and even Seattle and Florida.
What hotels do you use?
Our flagship hotels are the nearby Hilton and Hampton Inn. They've shown us the best customer service and they're walking distance [from the CMCC].
Why did Nashicon choose the CMCC for this event?
It was someplace that we could grow into. In terms of amenities and the layout, it was the best choice for us. 2017 [was] the first year we [could] use and rent out all the rooms and the exhibit hall on all three days.
What are some benefits of the venue?
One of the things that we noticed is the Convention Center is the only one that gives us public parking and it's easily accessible. They have a lot more departments than an average venue would, such as AV and security, that other venues don't have.
How has the staff at the CMCC helped during the planning process?
Overall the people have been absolutely amazing and some of the easiest people to work with. The personal touch is always a great feeling. In particular, I've previously worked with Sarah, the Director of Sales. Now we're working with Anne Spencer. The experience I've had with them has been extremely good. [They are] friendly and personable and they make sure their clients are well taken care of.
What tips do you have for other meeting planners choosing the CMCC for an event?
My advice would be to speak openly and honestly and ask a question if you have one. They'll accommodate what you're trying to do, the best way they can.
What's the food planning at the CMCC like?
They have their own menus and they don't allow outside food but they've worked with us on that, and even worked with us to add a stir-fry station that we run during our convention now. Their catering is getting better and better but it's always very high-quality food.
What are some of your personal favorite spots in Columbia?
This is very much a college town. One of my favorite spots in the nearby area is the Flying Saucer. They offer beer and really great food, especially their bratwurst. Our downtown area and bars give us that ‘Columbia flare.'