Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Westercon 2007: Site Preview

I have found myself on the staff e-mail list for Gnomeward Bound/Westercon 60, which will be next year (Saturday, June 30 - Tuesday, July 3, 2007) at the Marriott in San Mateo, California, although I've not actually agreed to do anything for the convention, and indeed, I've been severely curtailing my conrunning activities, what with the looming cost of Japan ahead of me. They sent me a notice for a meeting this afternoon, and, having some time available and some curiosity about the site and how they plan to use it, I decided to attend.

Parking at the hotel is not free, although apparently they've negotiated free parking during the Westercon itself. Not wanting to pay even the $5 validated staff rate, I parked in the Rite-Aid parking lot a couple of blocks away and walked. I also could have parked on street nearby. This wouldn't work during the convention itself, but was fine for short-term parking.

That Rite-Aid is open 24-hours, and is about as far from the hotel as the far parking lot was at the San Jose Doubletree. There is also a 7-Eleven on the corner and a Trader Joe's market, all within walking distance. There are lots of other stores in the area, but they're all a drive, being 1-3 miles away, like the Costco in Foster City on the other side of the freeway. Unlike the relatively isolated San Jose Doubletree, this San Mateo Marriott has a few more things nearby it. It's also about a 15-minute walk from the Hayward Park Caltrain station, and it's a relatively straightforward walk, too. You get off the train, walk east on the street that dead-ends at the train station, and there's the hotel.

I'm pretty familiar with the area around the hotel because I work just a couple of miles up the road near the College of San Mateo, and a number of services I use are near the hotel. For example, there is the local AAA office and the San Mateo Post Office, besides the stores I talked about above.

I've attended a couple of conventions at the San Mateo Marriott (formerly the Dunfey Hotel). In fact, the very first convention I attended -- not an SF con, but a gaming convention -- was in that hotel. I also sat behind a dealer table at a Further ConFusion selling memberships for ConJose one year. So I'm not totally unfamiliar with the hotel, but I've never paid it close attention.

For the size of convention that Westercon has become, this may well turn out to be a better fit for Westercon than the originally-announced Doubletree San Jose. While it's smaller than the Doubletree, Westercon is also less than half the size of BayCon, which was just about the right size for the Doubletree. (BayCon is also moving to a new home, but it looks like it may be the San Jose Fairmont, which ought to be very interesting.) We'll be a relatively tight fit at the San Mateo Marriott, but I think it may work well.

There are some particularly nice features about this hotel, including the fact that the block of sleeping rooms that is expected to be the party floor connects directly into the programming room area. They aren't on separate floors. You walk down a corridor past function rooms, and suddenly you're in a sleeping room corridor. You can access the party floor from the ground floor by stairs without elevators. This is excellent.

Room rates are apparently $99/night for regular rooms, but they also have over a hundred mini-suites at $119 including refrigerators and microwave ovens. I may well book one of those myself -- the savings on having breakfast in the room alone would pay for the difference in price for two people.

We were told that wireless (and wired in-room) internet service will be free to hotel guests during the convention, and it's available in the function space as well. (I would suggest anyone not staying in the hotel who wants to use their wireless-enabled computer simply find a friend who is staying in the hotel and get an access code from him/her.)

After the meeting, I popped over the railroad tracks to a Fresh Choice restaurant where I've eaten many times. See what I said about convenient?

I won't say the San Mateo Marriott is perfect -- it doesn't have the social centers of the SJ Doubletree in the Coffee Garden and Quiet Bar -- but it does have things going for it. Those of us who have grown nice and comfortable with the Doubletree/Former Red Lion will have to get used to a different property, but I would say that the forced move may well have also forced Westercon 60 to "right-size" its facilities to the likely size of the convention.
Tags: westercon
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