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By Don Greenwood, WBC Convention Director
MAKING THE TOUGH CALLS
Note: This column will be of primary interest to those interested in the inner workings of WBC and how decisions such as the upcoming 2016 venue change came to be. It is a rewritten draft of the initial announcement made at WBC 2014 to announce our 2016 change of venue for those who missed that presentation or any of the dozen hourly powerpoint virtual tours which took place in the subsequent two days. It expands on that original draft to answer internet queries/observations that have surfaced in the wake of the convention. I apologize for how long this has taken, but I've been a busy camper and also had to await answers from both Seven Springs and the Board about certain clarifications therein. Then, too, I didn’t want to confuse anyone about the venue of 2015 as compared to that of 2016. Remind me to tell you about the attendee who showed up at the door of my house one year expecting the convention to be held there. If, like most people, this behind the scenes look at how the sausage is made is of no interest to you, cut to the chase and move immediately to the shorter venue description that deals only with what you can expect at our new location in Seven Springs, PA on July 23, 2016. (Or if even that is too much information, you can go directly to hotel reservations.) Otherwise, welcome to the prolonged, meandering reminisces of an old game developer making his way in the wonderful world of game conventions.
As I write this, I am in the midst of directing my 25th consecutive Avaloncon/WBC gaming convention which says more about what's behind me than what's ahead. As my days at the helm of this enterprise tick down to their inevitable end I am humbled by the number of mistakes made along the way, but encouraged by what has been achieved in spite of my best efforts, imperfect though they may be. It's been a fun, if exhausting, trip to say the least, but future gamers have even better days in store for them in part because of what we've established in the last 25 years. It is my belief that WBC is now on the brink of evolving into something truly special—a national—nay, international—vacation destination that families with a love of sophisticated boardgames will enjoy for generations to come.
It is said that "You can't please everybody all the time" and I'm here to vouch for those being the truest words ever spoken. I've received countless accolades and glowing reviews of WBC in years past, but such feel good moments are always weighed against those more inclined to vitriol. For every person that is thrilled about any aspect of WBC you care to name, I can cite someone with an opposing point of view. Does that make them wrong? No, it makes them people. Folks are allowed to like what they like. I've come to grudgingly realize that WBC is not for everyone and that all we can do is provide our version of what an enjoyable gaming conference should be and let gamers discover and choose for themselves what they truly enjoy. People will either like it or they won't and will vote accordingly with their future attendance or absence. I take solace that so many of us seem to have found our gaming nirvana at WBC and return on an annual basis from all over the world. Why would they board a plane to reach WBC when there are countless gaming conventions, large and small, closer to home? Every year our numbers increase—not because we are bigger or more grandiose—but simply because we offer them something they apparently can't find elsewhere.
WBC is unique within the realm of game conventions. It stands out due to its competitive theme of course, but also as a non-profit corporation owned by its attendees rather than by any one individual or company. Unlike the megacons, we aren't out to make a buck or sell you products. Quite the contrary—our object is to break even—or at least bleed on a small enough scale to allow us to continue to host WBC for generations to come. As such, we tend to pay more attention to our attendees—perhaps too much—and some of those attendees, in turn, feel a sense of entitlement that prompts them to public comment when they disagree. And they disagree a lot. I've always found it ironic that a convention that engenders such passion from its devotees also draws so much self criticism from within its own ranks. Issues that seemingly never draw a murmur of comment pro or con at the mega-cons or even smaller, privately owned conferences, are debated at WBC in our attempt to make everyone happy. I assume that is because there is more of a feeling of empowerment here. You don't hear the mega-cons debating policy with their attendees. They just do it. Here, you can play the Chairman of the Board on Sunday, and skewer him on Monday—from the perceived safety of an internet soapbox. At the mega-cons however, what any one individual says is not going to ever reach the ears of the bean counters calling the shots—much less influence them to change their policies. My point is that YOU elect nine of your fellows who can fire or hire me, or do pretty much whatever they please so long as they form a majority. If you don't like their decisions, you have only yourselves to blame. You could have run for the Board, voted for someone else, or—for many of you—bothered to vote at all. Less than one in six members actually vote in our elections; closer to one in nine if you count the walkons who join us after the election ends—barely enough to constitute a legal election.
Nevertheless, this decision was eventually made by nine fellow gamers that you, by your action or inaction, entrusted with that power. I cannot say what motivated each vote. My fellow Board members must answer that for themselves, although in the end they were near unanimous in their decision. The comments below are my own. I do not presume to speak for the Board. Each may subscribe to the opinions expressed or reject them in part or in whole as the case may be. Rest assured that I spent far too much time researching and presenting the possibilities. After extensive internet review of convention centers, proposals were requested from nine sites that met our minimum requirements. The five best were compared in each of many factors ranging from affordability to location. The Board narrowed this list to three finalists which were then revisited with all or most of the Board in tow. When the votes were counted we were down to two choices—one of which was—ta da—the Lancaster Host which performed admirably in 2013 while apologizing for a sweaty 2012. But in the end, the Board voted for a change in venue and in 2016 WBC moves for only the second time in its history and takes its show to Seven Springs—a ski resort located 158 miles west along the PA turnpike some 59 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
All this is by way of introduction to the latest round of critiques regarding our recent announced change of venue after a decade in Lancaster. Site changes are always controversial and it was no surprise that this one would cause a ripple in the force. We knew we were going to hear about it whether we moved or stayed. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. That was our lot. There were no correct choices that would please everyone. Try as we might, we just could not find that elusive location that offered dates, duration, affordability, improved amenities and equal access to all that some insist exists if only we would subscribe to THEIR criteria as to what is important. Sadly, I have yet to meet two people with the same criteria—let alone 2,000.
The smart money in the conference industry says that you gloss over complaints and don't give voice to replies that only serve to provide a platform for rabble rousers. Well, I've never been accused of being very smart so what follows is a "one-last-time" reply to questions and concerns voiced following the recent venue change and an attempt to explain how we arrived at our decision. I will not engage in a continuing debate about any of this, nor will I unequivocally declare that our decision was necessarily correct. For some of you, no amount of explanation will suffice to assuage your sense of loss of your previous convenience. For others, the change is long overdue. However, it was the near-unanimous decision reached by nine duly elected Board members doing their best after prolonged discussion, site visits and due diligence in the best interest of the current membership.
2015: In 2015 we return to Lancaster for the tenth straight year at the same time and place (August 3 thru 9) to complete our current contract with the Lancaster Host. The past decade has been one of slow, but steady, growth that has been made possible in no small part by Host's ample meeting space and affordable rates culminating in the lowest per diem prices of any major gaming convention. But at the end of the day you get what you pay for and the facility has drawn much criticism in the annual internet sport of site bashing following each WBC. Some of this is understandable, although the extent it has reached in recent years can best be characterized as 'piling on' by the peanut gallery. At a certain point, it becomes counterproductive. While it may feel good to vent, there is a price to be paid for public howling. Anyone who thinks such pillorying makes it easier to negotiate hotel contracts should try it some time. At least one potential site withdrew its proposal after researching the group's internet etiquette. Be that as it may, the Lampeter AC failure in 2012 brought a sense of urgency to our site evaluations and began a year of serious searches in the wake of a resulting membership survey and the angst it caused between those inclined to stay for the sake of frugality/convenience and those seeking a change.
At the urging of many we began our search with a rare (for us) and comprehensive membership survey of our venue choices and appealed long and hard for replies to this once-in-a-decade outreach. To the membership's credit, you replied in far more numbers than such polls usually generate, but those replies still amounted to less than half the membership. Were they truly representative or slanted towards those more favorable to WBC than the norm? Who can say? I tend to take such surveys with a grain of salt since even the best have some inherent bias—if for no other reason than only the most invested are inclined to answer them in the first place. In any case, the replies were diverse and, if nothing else, demonstrated how varied were the opinions on a variety of topics. To me, this was the real value of that survey—to show the wide disparities that exist about what WBC should aspire to be. Nevertheless, armed with those results we started a search for viable alternatives for our next facility contract—a process that would take every bit of 18 months to reach a conclusion.
Where: Obviously, the #1 concern expressed in the wake of the announced change pertained to location. The typical reaction was favorable if it moved closer to the respondent, and less so as it moved further away. I would hope that even the most self-centered critic would realize that the world does not revolve around himself and that finding a suitable facility that was closer to everyone was just an impossibility given the laws of physics. That said, distance is certainly a major factor in anyone's choice regarding which gaming convention to frequent. So, it is not surprising that those nearby adopt a possessive attitude toward local conferences that offer comfortable commutes. Objection when that option is lost is a natural reaction. Heck there are still Baltimoreans who no longer talk to me since we left Hunt Valley ten years ago - not that I was the sole architect of that decision. The resulting predictions of demise following the Hunt Valley exit proved inaccurate and I can only hope that this change in venue will be similarly plagued. That said, I acknowledge the claim of one persistent critic that the convention will not be the same. It wasn't the same when Avaloncon left Camp Hill or when WBC deserted Hunt Valley either. Both evolved to fit their new location and adherents, while sadly recalling those left behind who wouldn't follow it to the next stop. Both those changes annoyed some while pleasing others. This will do the same, but whether the evolution is for better or worse is still to be determined.
It is not surprising that locals object to a move that leaves them suddenly facing the prospects of a hotel bill. I can only refer them to one highly touted gaming conference that, as a matter of fairness, actually requires its attendees to be a guest of the hotel even if they live next door! Outrageous? Not really. Conventions are not possible without attendees filling the hotel. Those are the folks who actually pay the freight. Admission fees don't put even a small dent in the overall costs of such a conference. The result is that locals can attend for a small fraction of what out-of-towners pay—even without considering travel costs. So, while I sympathize with those losing their local game con, I side more with those traveling members who make it all possible. And yes, it is those who make the trip each year from distant points across the globe whose interests I am most motivated to serve. Even so, WBC retains its big tent approach—you are welcome at WBC regardless of your lodging choice.
The results of our previously alluded to survey had centered our search within 300 miles—the driving distance most likely to be tolerated—so those upset with our 158-mile change of venue should take heart that two of the alternative sites were nearly twice as distant. Admittedly, those in the northeast bear the biggest inconvenience, causing one such to lament the lack of a member from that region on the Board as if that were the cause of the decision. I dismiss this notion as totally irrelevant. The addition of a Board member with a bias to protect his own turf as a key factor in the decision making process would cause more problems than it would solve. Even if this were not the case, what then of our Canadian members, or the many Californians who fly east each year, or the johnny rebs in our midst? Shouldn't they have equal representation? And if so, what's stopping them? Any member can run for the Board. Since such membership entails more of a time commitment and sacrifice than most are willing to make, I hardly think adding a member who simply digs in his heels to bring WBC closer to his neighborhood regardless of the consequences is much of a remedy. Indeed, the Board collectively and overwhelmingly voted for a site that was further removed from their own domiciles and should be applauded for it.
Such thinking returns us to the idealistic wish for a rotating site to share WBC with different regions. Having gone down that road before with the birth of Origins in the late 70's, I'm not inclined to repeat that mistake. The traveling Origins road show suffered from very uneven performance from one year to the next and never really took off until it settled permanently in Columbus. A rotating WBC would be even more prone to difficulties given its unique nature and reliance on a veteran cadre of GMs not likely to follow it en masse across the country. A traveling WBC without its core personnel would no longer be WBC. It would just be another Open Gaming convention with no particular raison d'etre and the added expense and difficulties of cross country management. More importantly, it would have to proselytize new locals at every location—a process that takes years—and incur the wrath of established local conventions with their own dedicated following. Even the attendees at such a relocated convention would have to be introduced to the conduct of tournaments and the slow dawning of the realization that competition is not necessarily the root of all evil.
Another aspect of the "Where" question beyond matters of pure longitude and latitude is whether the Board erred in not choosing an urban setting with easier access to a major airport. Since WBC has an appreciable draw outside the mid-Atlantic region, this is certainly a valid criticism and one that weighed heavily on my mind. I am, after all, a proponent of the traveler's convenience first and foremost. However, as I hope to show you, Seven Springs is not as bad a choice in that regard as it first appears and when compared with the other factors to be considered, the Board decided overwhelmingly that it was the best choice available to us.
Certainly urban convention centers have much to recommend them, but they also come with very large price tags—both for the organizers and the attendees. Putting aside for the moment the substantial added cost to attendees of parking and lodging, we simply didn't want to have to resort to selling ribbons and generic event tickets for everything you do on top of an admission price. If nothing else, WBC would have to be drastically shortened to make the finances work and that would make it less appealing to travellers for whom the trip would become too much of a burden for the payoff at the end. One all inclusive membership fee has always been a hallmark of WBC and we didn't want to sacrifice that convenience to pay the bills. Then too, while WBC is too large for most hotels, it is not large enough to justify the expense of a major convention center given the price sensitivity of many gamers. We simply would have traded some of the angst over location for even more furor over expense. I've run conventions in such places and it is no accident that I prefer suburban settings.
Of course, you would be correct in responding that Seven Springs is actually rural, not suburban. Oddly enough, that is going to work to the advantage of many air travelers. Lancaster was a more densely populated region to be sure, but it was also somewhat equidistant from three airports which—depending on your air connections—gave you a trifecta of possible destinations. While such choice may be good for the best air connections, it fractionalized the incoming stream of air passengers. That, plus our nine-day duration, meant that air traffic was even further diluted to the point where it was not economically feasible to provide shuttle service to any of them. Now that there is but one major airport to funnel air traffic through we are more able to subsidize a shuttle service making the expense of car rentals unnecessary. And while it is true that trips off property to convenience stores or restaurants will definitely be longer, they will not be plagued by the kinds of traffic jams one often encountered on Rt 30 or in Baltimore. Distance is relative in the country.
I've also seen laments that bigger is better and that WBC will never amount to anything so long as it limits itself to non urban centers. That's true from that perspective, but it ignores that many of us are not all that enthused about WBC growth. Quite the contrary. For many of us, WBC is more of a reunion of friends than a gala marketing showplace. We never set out to compete with the huge trade shows and have no desire to do so. In fact, we celebrate the difference. WBC has a unique appeal in the universe of gaming conventions and it is not one which we wish to sacrifice on the altar of commercialism. While this move was made for bigger and better facilities to ensure a more enjoyable week, it was not made in search of numbers for the sake of growth. If you enjoy our unique blend of a competitive theme combined with friendly Open Gaming, we welcome you to what we have to offer. If not, there is no shortage of other gaming conferences with which to scratch your gaming itch. But just as we have no interest in getting bigger by diluting our focus on boardgames to offer other gaming mediums such as RPGs, CCGs, miniatures or computer games, we are also not interested in attracting crowds who do not share our appreciation for the unique features that make WBC what it is. WBC is first and foremost where boardgamers come first.
This is not an effort to be bigger than convention X…not that bigger is anything to sneeze at. Size alone can be an attraction—with a Wow factor all its own. However, size brings problems as well as opportunities. That's why some prefer smaller local cons to the mega-cons. If we lack the size and glitz that you crave in a convention, by all means that should be a factor in your opting to go elsewhere, in which case location and cost will once again enter into the equation of your decision.
This or That: That survey affirmed other aspects of what WBC should be that played into the decision of where we would go in 2016. Not that it was any great surprise, but it revealed a wide disparity of choices in how long WBC should be. Naturally, it showed that we both wanted our cake and a desire to eat it too. Of course, we wanted better amenities but we didn't want to pay for them. We wanted to be able to pick and choose and come for just one day if we chose, but by all means keep the nine-day duration that made the trip worthwhile for those traveling cross-country. Never mind the limitations that imposed on finding the ideal site. The Board once again chose to try to make everyone happy and for that they are truly guilty. We'll never learn.
Consider that by shortening the conference to the typical 3-, 4- or 5-day duration, the daily attendance would be more evenly distributed. Shuttles become more feasible, and room/table/food service resources become easier to estimate and provide on an as-needed basis rather than worrying about shortfalls during peak attendance and waste during the remainder. At least three highly espoused conventions I can name limit itheir attendance to a pre-determined number of pre-registrants who must purchase admission to the entire show to maximize the facility resources. This is wise resource management that maximizes the chances of a good time being had by all in attendance. Of course, it eliminates those who only want to partake for a day. We didn't go that route and instead opted to welcome all attendees regardless of duration. Probably not the wisest choice, but we do like our cake.
Transparency: One quibble which I find no sympathy with is the moaning over lack of transparency about how such decisions are made, as if you will readily find such accounts from other conventions or corporate entities. Such sentiments are naive in the extreme. I've been attending or running boardgame conventions for five decades and I can't recall ever seeing more transparency into the workings of a convention than exists on this website—or in this message for that matter. As a stockholder you wouldn't want the executives controlling your investment to divulge business plans over the internet to their competitors or suppliers. Neither should you want BPA to negotiate its contracts in public.
In an age where many employers no longer give references for fear of being sued over a less than stellar report, you should hardly be surprised that we shy away from reporting our analyses of the relative merits of any commercial business as a future site for our convention. While individuals vent their frustrations in a public forum with seeming impunity, it is far less wise for a corporate entity to do so. Even honest appraisals are subjective to varying degrees and can invite expensive litigation—even when successfully defended. Consequently, whom we negotiate with, the offers made and rejected, and the reasons why will not be discussed over the internet as long as I am involved. Just as a citizen has no right to know the intricate details of national defense policy, a BPA member's right to know every last detail of our business plan is limited to the right to vote for representatives who are versed in those details after being duly elected—and who hopefully have the good sense to abide by the Board's own self-censorship rules.
Board members worth their salt sacrifice a considerable amount of time and effort in order to make these decisions. However, their biggest sacrifice is often surrendering their right to speak their minds in a public forum which is why one should be careful in choosing who to serve on the Board. Resisting the urge to sound off or respond in kind to a heckler is one of the prices to be paid for responsible service. Don't take my word for it. Ask our legal counsel.
Down to Basics
OK, for those who don't care about the why, but just want to par-ty here is the lowdown on what you can expect in 2016 at Seven Springs.
- DATE: In response to many requests to widen the gap to the school year, we've moved our date up to the last week
in July…commencing Saturday, July 23 and ending Sunday, July 31. Just as the location change will be
less convenient for some than for others, we realize that every week is bad for some and good news for others.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: 414 guestrooms backed by overflow accommodations in the form of nearby chalets and condos plus a neighboring Hidden Valley property. This is a huge improvement over past roomblocks in the convention hotel which we've had a long history of quickly selling out. The much larger inventory of available rooms in the facility, as well as the greater variety of nearby lodging choices, was a huge enticement. The annual rush for reservations on site should be a thing of the past. Explore for yourself the many lodging options at http://www.7springs.com/. However, you will find the rates much higher outside our roomblock - if available at all - and not eligible for our rebate so make your reservations from our site.
To confirm or correct, as the case may be, some of the online speculation that has arisen I offer the following clarifications, but all such information should be considered secondary to what you will get on the resort's website. I am not a reservationist and will not act as one; do not expect further information from me outside what you will find on the official website.
When we surveyed what people were willing to pay for a better venue, the choices ranged from $140 to $200 a day with the majority of responses predictably at the lower end of that scale. So, that's what we got you. Due to BPA subsidies, the base rate will be $129 per day. To obtain this rate, maid service will be limited to every second day, although fresh towels and such will be available. We figured you'd appreciate the lower rate over having your bed made every day. However, there is a class of 66 rooms called Junior Suites which - among other differences—come with a refrigerator. The rate for these will be $139 per day. All this should come as good news unless you compare it to the Host's offer of $119 a day, you say? Well, if you're staying for six or more days in a standard hotel room, we're going to match that Host rate of $119 with a BPA rebate. And since the taxes are 2% less at Seven Springs, your final hotel cost will actually be less than a corresponding stay at the Host! Man, who could argue with that?
Well, quite a few people apparently—even though this rate is less than the 2015 rate of most hotels I've checked for significant boardgaming conventions—and certainly all of those in this region. One of the lesser appreciated benefits of the Host as a site was the abundance of low cost lodging alternatives nearby. Sadly, we can't match that. I can only repeat the earlier truism that the convention is made possible by those staying in the facility. Those seeking lodging elsewhere are still welcome but they must realize that without sufficient patrons of the convention hotel, there is no convention for anyone.
Other rooms do not contain refrigerators. A limited number of mini-fridges can be rented for $40 per stay.
There is no cooking allowed of any kind in guest rooms so microwaves and hotplates are forbidden. Blown fuses can ensue and guests causing such issues can be removed without refund. Those wishing such amenities should look into the chalets or condos which come equipped with full kitchens.
The availability of condos, cabins and chalets for larger groups is an exciting special feature of Seven Springs which we hope will aid our intended evolution of WBC into a full vacation destination. It is our hope that entire clubs and families will attend to take advantage of these special accommodations. Details pertaining to cost, size, and amenities should be worked out with a Seven Springs reservationist. However, be aware that all of these options will put you further away from the gaming meeting space, and aside from the chalets, are NOT within convenient walking distance. While the resort provides shuttle service anywhere on property, it is not instantaneous and those selecting condos or cabins would be well advised to have a car available.
While reservations for WBC 2016 at Seven Springs will open in mid-August, reservations will only be taken for stays of five or more days. Commencing Feb. 1, 2016 reservations will be taken for four or more days. On May 15, 2016, reservations will open for shorter durations.
This restriction is intended to prevent early sellouts which deny room availability to those wishing longer stays because of earlier shorter duration requests. There will be a one-day deposit required for each reservation. Reservations can be cancelled or transferred to another person up to 60 days prior to the event but there will be a $75 fee for any such cancellation or transfer thereafter. There is no fee for lengthening any reservation, but canceling any portion of a reservation will result in forfeiture of the deposit.
There is a laundromat on site. Some condos also have laundry facilities.
There are numerous lowcost budget lodging options within a 15-mile drive.
- SHUTTLES: Anybody who has taken a shuttle from an airport into the adjoining city knows how expensive it can be for a relatively short trip. So, how much more would it be for the 70 miles to Seven Springs from the Pittsburgh airport? Try $20 (round trip). There will be three trips per day. If and when these fill up, we will add more to the schedule. If you prefer the train, your options are limited. The closest stop is Connellsville some 30 minutes away with limited service, but Seven Springs will provide shuttle service for $10 roundtrip. In both instances, you must call at least 24 hours ahead, must have a reservation at Seven Springs, be pre-registered and must make a non-refundable payment in advance.
- RENOVATIONS: While this property is as old as the Host it has been recently renovated, and like Disneyland, is in an almost constant state of rebirth. The AC unit in one of the two buildings we'll use is brand new and different parts of the resort are renovated every year.
- ACCESS: Despite the greater number of rooms, you will find yourself closer to the meeting space. This is a 10-floor hotel serviced by five elevators in the tower section alone. No more jokes about being farther away on property than those staying elsewhere. Disabled access is also greatly improved.
- PARKING: Parking is plentiful and free—and while it may not be close to your room, it will be closer to the meeting space for those who use their car trunks as a game cache. This was a major advantage over most of the other sites we considered.
- MEETING SPACE: Overall, the space is somewhat larger than we have presently, although it tends to be more spread out with a second building similar to the Expo Center in distance from the hotel. Navigating the site will be similar to seeing the Host for the first time or akin to finding where your classes are during your freshman year. In short, lots of individual rooms as opposed to one large concrete hall. And much of it with a panoramic view of the countryside.
There will be more space for vendors, open gaming and dedicated tournament rooms. Best of all, the table inventory is a major improvement in terms of both number, types and quality. We'll even be able to have our own "monster gaming" room with prolonged setup of multi-table games.
- SMOKING: The resort, specifically the hotel rooms, cabins, chalets, hallways, lobbies, meeting rooms, lounges and dining areas are "smoke free". Smokers may request ashtrays at checkin by contacting the front desk staff for use on the hotel lodging room balconies only.
- ALCOHOL: The resort, like most establishments with a liquor license, does not allow alcohol in meeting spaces unless purchased from the resort.
- FOOD: 7 Springs has 12 different restaurants on site, ranging from fast food to fine dining - some of it within steps of the gaming areas.
Somerset is really the closest place to get groceries (12 miles). There is a small market at the Trent House Inn, about 3 miles away, but is limited to basic items like milk and bread. The Signatures Retail Shop on property carries a few basic items.
- AMENITIES: This is a resort with lots to entertain the non-gamer in your family. Among the attractions are an outstanding golf course, Zip-line canopy tours, alpine slides, mountain biking, rock climbing, Segway tours, paintball, disc golf, bowling, horse riding, spas, and sporting clays as well as indoor and outdoor pools. Suffice to say that those of us who have visited the place suddenly found ourselves with more attentive family members. Whether that's a good thing or not for your personal family situation, I leave to your discretion.
- ACTIVITY PASS: 1 day, rate to be determined in spring 2016. A three-day midweek pass (do not have to be consecutive days) is $99. An activity pass allows unlimited use of Alpine Slide, Alpine Tower, Bowling, Disc Golf, Euro Bungy, Hydrobikes, Miniature Golf, Paddleboats, Rock Wall, Scenic Chairlift Rides and Summer Tubing.
- KID'S CAMP: For children aged 5 to 10. Camp may include fishing, paddle boating, scavenger hunts, team games, swimming and crafts. Lunch and snacks are included.
- DAYCARE: Children walking age through 5 years-old can enjoy fun with toys, crafts, songs, games and movies in a supervised playroom while mom and dad enjoy their boadgames. Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm. Lunch and snacks provided.
Cost for both of the above children's programs is $30 for Half day; $45 for full day. Reservations are required.
- WEATHER: Even the climate is attractive with mountain breezes dispensing with all but the worst summer heat and humidity. Weather varies from year to year of course and cannot be guaranteed, but over time this location has proven to be 8 degrees cooler per day in July than Lancaster with nightly temperatures in the 60s. My stays there have featured nights with open balcony doors.
- CAMPSITES: For the budget conscious, there are nearby RV parks and campsites.
So, what's the downside?
As in real estate, its all about LOCATION. Obviously, if you were commuting to the Host, this is not as convenient for you. But more than that, it is OFF the beaten path. If you're used to getting off property for a meal, you'll find there is little nearby to choose from and there will be no free breakfasts such as the Host provides. Even a sortie to the local Wal Mart to stock up on munchies will be a trip. On the other hand, those who fly should not feel the need to rent a car. We will be subsidizing shuttles to/from the Pittsburgh airport, so as long as you plan ahead, pre-register, and make the necessary shuttle reservations with the resort you should be able to dispense with the expense of a rental car. However, you WILL need to be flexible with your arrivals and departures as the shuttles will only be operating at peak times.
Your Membership Fee
It should be no surprise that admission fees will be increasing to help pay for all of this, although the amount will vary and in some General Admission cases will actually decrease. Before protesting, please keep two things in mind:
- Our per diem base fee of $10 per day for our lowest pre-reg rate has remained the same for 17 years. Think back to what a dollar purchased in 1998 and compare that to what it buys today. I suspect most will agree an increase is long overdue.
- Out of that membership fee we will be paying rebates and subsidies that can go over $70 per head in some instances. Despite the increase in fees, even less funds will make it to the BPA's coffers after we've paid the bills.
I'll close with a few words about finances. 2015 will be the 17th WBC and I expect it to be our 17th straight year of finishing in the black despite starting with no financial backing whatever. That has been achieved by living within our means. 17 years of conservative management has enabled us to increasingly loosen the pursestrings while expanding our offerings. Our "warchest" has grown while awaiting the time to take the next step up to a bigger, more costly, facility. That burgeoning bank account has allowed us to expand off the interest while maintaining the lowest per diem rates offered anywhere. Who knew that interest as a concept was about to become extinct? The joke when we started was that when we decided to pull the plug on WBC, we'd have one last big party and invite everyone to come for free.
Well, that day is nearly here. Sort of. To minimize the disruption of the move and encourage everyone to give our new home a try we are budgeting our very first year in the red. I'd like to lay out for you now a simple, and admittedly worst case scenario, of how your increased WBC admission fee is going to be spent in 2016.
I'll start with the assumption that you enjoy our biggest discount by joining during the Annual December Membership Drive. $100 buys you NINE days admission for $11.11 a day—still the best bargain in gaming. No more Pre-Con separate fees. No event fees, No ribbons. No parking costs. Just nine full days of gaming.
To get that $129 room rate, we've subsidized you with a five-figure purchase that, depending on attendance, will probably amount to between $7—$15 per head…let's call it $10 for the sake of simplicity—and in the process we've saved you $10 plus taxes PER DAY. We're now down to $90 remaining from your admission fee.
Moreover, to offer you a room rate equal to what you would have had at the Host, if you book a regular room at Seven Springs for six or mre days (not a condo, cabin, chalet or suite) AND are a pre-registered Sustaining or Tribune member of the BPA, you will receive a $10 credit per day on your hotel bill. That leaves us nothing with which to pay salaries, insurance, prizes, advertising, printing and the myriad other expenses of running such an enterprise right down to the Paypal fees that save most of you the cost of a postage stamp but cost us many times that…as much as nine or ten times that stamp in extreme cases. You want the convenience, but you don't want to pay for it. Well, sooner or later the bills come due.
But we're still not done! If you fly to Seven Springs via Pittsburgh and avail yourself of the shuttle service, we're on the hook for subsidizing part of that as well.
When we started this process, I was not optimistic about finding a better location while remaining in the mid-Atlantic regionwith both the necessary space and improved amenities at a price that would not be considered prohibitive. However, I now find myself in the rare atmosphere of optimism regarding our future venue. In fact, I haven't been this downright giddy since the year we sent Reiff home without any wood. I hope you'll join us in 2016 to experience the next evolution of WBC—where boardgamers come first.