HMGS Free Games in Education Day, Baltimore MD (Logistics)


This post will focus on the BCC in terms of the logistics element that I could personally see and experience. As the Games in Education Day was absolutely free (parking too, we’ll get in to that), I can’t say what the cost of hotels would be like in Summer 2010– I haven’t done any legwork on that subject.

The Drive:

(Anecdotal) I left the Northern VA area (near Springfield) roughly an hour before showing up at the BCC. Traffic was heavy but steady and I had absolutely no problem finding the place, although others complained bitterly about the lack of signs in the neighborhood. Caveat: years ago, in another lifetime, I was a videographer and had many gigs in Baltimore. I have some knowledge of the Inner Harbor layout.

Paying for parking:

Frankly, the parking situation was clear as mud from the website. Apparently you had to email away for instructions. That I didn’t see on the site at first glance, so I assumed you needed to park in a day garage. I chose one close to the Baltimore Convention Center, at the Sheraton Hotel. Presuming these rates are competitive, here you go. This is about what a daily parking rate will be in this neighborhood.

Parking Rates, Sheraton Hotel

Parking Rates, Sheraton Hotel

How close was it to the facility? Pretty close. Looking up the street:

Looking Right out of the Garage

Looking Right out of the Garage

At the top of the hill you see, take a right.

Looking right at the top of that hill

Looking right at the top of that hill

So, we’re not exactly talking about a long haul through the mean streets of Baltimore here. Other parking garages were nearby, in roughly similar locations.

I carried my “Emergency Game Event” stash with me. 54mm gladiators. Pretty easy to tote. I wouldn’t want to be walking around for blocks and blocks with a big setup on a cart– but a small game with one of those luggage racks on wheels, that would easy to manage. Note, I’m not elderly or restricted in mobility, in reasonable health and I don’t mind walking. This might be unworkable for some.

Safety:

I’ve heard people ruminating on how unsafe the “streets of Baltimore” might be during HISTORICON 2010. There are certainly parts of Baltimore I wouldn’t hang out at late at night, but the waterfront area isn’t one of them. I walked past a hotel, an old church, a very upscale townhouse neighborhood (gated) and near the stadium– I did not feel ill at ease or unsafe at any time. The advent of the Waterfront development and new Camden Yards has transformed this part of Baltimore quite a bit– much like the radius around the MCI Center in Washington DC has been transformed. I won’t say it’s impossible to get mugged, but I consider it unlikely.

Once I heard that parking was actually free, I didn’t want to waste money (28 dollars, presumably) for nothing, so I moved my car out of the lot and over to the free LOT C in the Stadium parking. This had been reserved by HMGS. Inconvenience factor was minimal– 7 dollars wasted and some walking.

The View from Lot C. about four blocks maximum

The View from Lot C. about four blocks maximum

Lot C was no great distance. About four blocks max, or, roughly, the distance from Arbys to the top of the hill and the Lancaster Host on Route 30. I don’t know what parking arrangements are being made for HISTORICON 2010, but if we are using Lot C, it’s not what I would classify a hardship.

The Light Rail:

I crossed over the light rail tracks and took this picture to demonstrate where the light rail station lets you off in relation to BCC. I’m on the Terrace of the BCC, looking down to take this picture.

Where the Light Rail lets you off

Where the Light Rail lets you off

Recall how the idea of staying in cheaper hotels than on the waterfront has been discussed, and people keep mentioning you could stay in a fleabag near BMI, and take a light rail train in to the facility to play games? Well, that’s where it lets out (above). I wouldn’t want to haul a giant game setup on this train to play in the BCC, but there has been some discussion about on site game storage. The Light Rail appears to be pretty affordable, but the downside is that the last one leaves at 1215. If you’re not on it, you will be hosed. Careful research into train routes and hotels is called for, and I haven’t begun to do it.

The Facility Itself:

Quite spacious and well lit. Tables had lots of space between them. There was no crowding. Acoustics were superior to any room in the Lancaster Host. To be expected in a professional conference center, I think.

The BCC GED room.

The BCC GED room.

The lighting and air conditioning were top notch. I felt very comfortable the entire time I was there.

On the down side, the only bathroom nearby, on the level where the games were being held was a one holer, so to speak. The layout will be greatly expanded for HISTORICON, so there’s no reason to believe that’s all we’ll get.

Loading and unloading::

What I didn’t get a chance to view: the GM loading and unloading area. However, I did see how people were lugging things up and down the stairs. Here’s the little elevator we loaded freight on. Since the tournament area is the only gaming spot downstairs, this will be an important issue for 2010.

The Freight Elevator, top..

The Freight Elevator, top..

Bottom of same elevatore

Bottom of same elevatore

I apologize for the blur on these last two pictures. I was moving when I took them. Moving material between levels seemed fairly easy to me. That’s about as much as I can talk to on loading and unloading. I hear that the BCC is non-union so unloading from your car to the curb or in a loading area is a doable do.

Onsite Food::

This was available for much of the time we were there– it broke up around 7 PM if I’m remembering it correctly. Decent fare– standard hamburgers, hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches. Expensive though, for what you get. A pulled pork sandwich and bottle of diet Pepsi cost me 1411 dollars (see * below), which is more than the Lancaster Host. Food in Baltimore may not be very cheap but it IS in a big city, there are options around if you take the time to look for them. Perhaps supplementing expensive facility food with a trip to a grocery store might be in order.

That’s about all I can talk to about BCC, based on what I actually saw or experienced. The big hurdle for me personally will be hotel costs, but it might be workable either by doubling up or staying farther out in the cheap locations and training in (that didn’t look like a pain to me, but I wasn’t trying it toting a lot of stuff, either). I have no idea, at this juncture, about where light rail goes in Baltimore and how much it costs. Worth looking into though.

Summary:

From what I’ve seen, parking garages will be a bit pricey if one intends to day trip the entire convention. About 90 dollars in parking. That works for me, since I live an hour away– it’s cheaper than one day in a Baltimore Waterfront hotel at Summer rates. For visitors from a lot farther away, some form of accommodation will have to be found– and that is where the big expense with Historicon will be. Virtually everything else I’ve witnessed seems to be a minor inconvenience and possible to cope with with a little planning except the cost of lodging. I hope this addresses specifics (instead of rumors) that people are concerned about. Longtime readers of this blog (and predecessor blog) know that I can be critical when I think I am right. I’ve tried to remain objective and honest about what I have seen and I hope this post is helpful to people who are having doubts about the BCC and Historicon.

(Addendum: Misconceptions on my part)

Concerning restrooms on the upper level, posted by Duncan Adams, Events Coordinator for Historicon 2010 on the Miniatures page:

I was worried about this being a misconception. The 300 level of the BCC has three large kiosk type restroom areas, each with a full sized mens’ room (3 urinals and 4 stalls), a full sized ladies room (how would I know how many stalls?;) Probably comparable to the mens’), and a “Family” unisex “one holer” on the end. The one holer was on the near end (as approached the the GAE Day area) so a lot of guys were using it. I expected that at least one would not see any others and draw the wrong conclusion. Thanks for giving me a chance to clear that us, Walt.
(Good news, considering the volume of people anticipated!)

Concerning my statement about unloading and loading, and where gaming will be in 2010:

1) At Historicon the 300 level will mainly have “Club” rooms, GM storage, and food. There might be a couple of games in the open space where GAE Day was. The rest of the games (~1/2), tournaments (including FoW and GW), flea market, dealers and painting will be on the 100 level.

2) There are 4 elevators available to move between GM storage on the 300 level to gaming areas on the 100 level. There are two available to move directly from GM loading to the 100 level gaming area.

Duly noted. This was the impression I got from a conversation with Pete Panzeri. I could have interpreted it incorrectly. Take Duncan’s clarifications as gospel– he’s the SME here.

* Several people pointed out that the Pulled Pork combo was 11 dollars, not 14. Apologies, I was going from memory and doing the best I can. I still considered the food at least on par with the Host’s prices if not more, and rather bland. That’s my own opinion.

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