(This article was definitely intended to be uploaded much earlier, but dealing with more pressing real life business and a several-week long illness, I was unable to churn this out in much more promptly manner. Anyway, enjoy!)
After residing in the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) Marriott for so many years, Anime Los Angeles (ALA) has finally decided to move from the modest hotel venue we all came to know and love to the eastward lying city of Ontario, CA (No, that is not the Canadian province of the same name). With a shift of dates later than the usual first full weekend of January, the Ontario Convention Center played host to the 12th iteration of this ever-growing convention. With a new venue and a new set of dates, ALA offered a good amount of features to check out in a fun-packed 3-day weekend.
With the move comes a new set of choices of accommodations, replenishment, and all. The venue is now located at an actual convention center for the first time in several years, giving it access to larger capacity ballrooms for panels, live performances, and other nice convention staples like the Dealer's Hall and Artist's Alley. The new location is also a short walk away from a number of lodgings such as the Radisson and Doubletree, all of which should fit a wide budget range. Various restaurants lie within the vicinity including the convention attendee's favorite, Denny's.
The new layout of both the Ontario Convention Center and its surrounding network of hotels give ALA quite the expansive layout. The convention center played home to the main panel rooms, a combined Dealer's Hall and Artist's Alley, a live performance hall, a photo studio, and some miscellaneous rooms for programming check-ins and all. I don't know about you folks, but I'm personally in the camp of those who would prefer to separate the Dealer's Hall and Artist's Alley at cons. Yes, combining them can and does save some space, but I would prefer to browse each separately for better comparisons and all plus more room for both vendors and artists, but the overall configuration definitely worked out for the most part with crowding not being too much of a problem as was the case sometimes back at the Marriott. The live performance hall was definitely was quite the step up from the Marriott's triple ballroom configuration used for larger events like the Masquerade, concerts, and such. The capacity was definitely more accommodating to an ever growing amount of attendees for the convention, and the acoustics and lighting seem to be quite the improvement.
As for what lies outside of the convention center, gamers and karaoke fanatics can get their fill over at the nearby Radisson Hotel. These areas may not be as closely connected to the rest of the convention per se, but being closer to those residing in the hotel for the weekend is a sort of a convenience as a trade-off. As for taking photos around the area that the convention center decided to occupy for the weekend, attendees will find that the lighting has definitely improved from the excess orange tints, but finding aesthetically good spots and backdrops may prove to be a challenge (Pro tip: There is a CSU campus not too far away from the venue if you want to explore more pleasing backdrops and not have to deal with convention crowding). Sites around the venue indicated for cosplay gatherings provided a lot of space for large fandoms to mingle about and get some photos and video taken. As with a previous year, however, rain did prove to be quite the downer for cosplay gatherings and other activities typically right outside of the venue, so perhaps more spacious indoor spaces can be arranged as a backup if they were not already.
The convention may feel less homey and less intimate for long-time and veteran attendees, but the new venue sure holds a lot of promise. The larger venue may be a bit overwhelming for less-experienced con goers, but with some willingness to explore and wander about, they'll be sure to find quite a few charms. ALA is here to stay at the Ontario Convention Center and its surrounding hotels for some years to come, and I believe attendees of all levels of experience will be able to appreciate and embrace this drastic change for the better.