The Legacy of “Major PP” continues

In a public letter to the HMGS Membership, we were just notified that our Summer venue, The Valley Forge Convention Center, has decided to exercise an option to cancel just outside the 90 day window prior to our July convention:

Date: April 15, 2011
Dear Fellow Hobbyists:

Funny how things work out. Last year at this time everyone involved with bringing you HISTORICON 2010 were excited about the new facility at the Valley Forge Convention Center (VFCC). In a very short time we had rescued the convention from the jaws of Baltimore and found what we all felt stacked up to be the new long term home-port for the hobby’s flagship show — HISTORICON. By the end of the summer with all the numbers in, it was clear we had a winner at the new venue.  Although attendance was down about 15%, it was not nearly as bad a hit
as we thought, based on the emergency move and our experience with first year venues. We expect a jump in attendance this year and were hopeful that trend would continue. Unfortunately, the one challenge we were planning to meet has arrived on our doorstep way sooner than expected.

On April 1st — in what has now become known around here as the “Famous April Fool’s Day letter” — HMGS was officially notified of the cancellation of our 2011 contract with VFCC (this was just outside of the 90-day contractual window VFCC  management had to cancel within if space usage was disrupted). Due to the awarding of gambling licenses to VFCC, the facility has begun immediate reconstruction of the Main (upper) level of the convention center to accommodate both 600 slots and 50 gaming tables. It was the latter we were not expecting that moved the casino from the lower ballroom area (adjacent to the Ice Nightclub) in the Radisson to center stage…our stage…the convention center.

The HMGS Board of Directors (BoD) immediately tasked the HISTORICON Convention Committee (HCC) to lay out all our options. We had very little time for debate so we concentrated on what it would take to proceed with the show. Based on our requirements for a facility and those of attendees (who had already booked rooms, airfare, vehicles, made shipping arrangements, etc.), only one solution seemed viable. As of now we are booking back into the VFCC with considerable cooperation and assistance from the venue.

How does this affect you, the attendee? First, anyone that has reserved lodging at any of the hotels on site or in the Valley Forge area still has their rooms; nothing has changed. With regard to useable convention space, that is the only change. The loss of the Main (upper) level of the convention center (which is being turned into a casino) has stripped us of 54,000 square feet of game area. By commandeering every foot of free space available (in the ballrooms, breakout rooms, hallways, etc.) of the two onsite hotels — Radisson and Scanticon — we have gotten back around 20,000 of that space (we will not know exact footage until a recon team is sent this weekend to do measurements).

The Vendor Hall will occupy the same place it did in 2010 — on the Concourse (lower) level of the convention center — but this year all tournaments (including Flames of War Nationals) will also be on that level, along with Convention Registration. We will still provide a Wally’s Basement (flea market) along with Hobby University (painting events) and War College (seminars), but at a somewhat  diminished size in the Scanticon Hotel above the convention center. These events will be in the Scanticon Hotel, above the convention center, and they will be using every bit of remaining space available to us. Clubs will remain together as last year, however the general gaming (non-club) tables will be spread around in many places in the two onsite hotels; a little like the college conventions of the 1980’s.

To assist in finding your games we are planning generous mapping along with signs and posters placed about the facility. This is not to say finding your game will be like “Where’s Waldo”, most areas will contain groups of tables, but we are using all the space we can get (some hallways and single table rooms included). Needless to say, it would help us greatly if people get there games and flea market reservations in early, because when space is all gone, it’s gone.  Right now we think we will cover most everyone, but there is always that chance.

As they say, “the show must go on” — and it will — hopefully with the same quality you have come to know from HISTORICON all these many years. While currently the location for the show in 2012 is up in  the air, what is certain is that once again it will go on.  Several venues are under review, and a task force stands ready to investigate any leads provided by the membership. The CONOPS has a pretty thick file to go through, supported by the HCC. The BoD has not set a drop dead date for announcing next year’s location, but hopefully they will come to a decision by HISTORICON or shortly thereafter. As always, we hope that you all are getting the most out of your historical miniature hobby and gaming experiences. We hope to see you in July at Valley Forge for HISTORICON 2011 – — “Historical Miniature Gaming’s Biggest Summer Vacation!”

Sincerely –

The HMGS Board of Directors

Astounded? I am.  As some wag commented in a public forum, I’m reminded of the final lines of the dying Jake Holman of THE SAND PEBBLES..

“What happened?  What the Hell Happened??”

That the VFCC might pull something like this is not incredibly surprising, considering the state’s desperate greed for more tax income, and the dulcet song of ringing slot machines must be like dope to the people making decisions.  Still, it is a blow to be treated like this.   After all, we gave plenty of notice to the Baltimore Convention Center that we were backing out of our agreements with them and we still ended up in contention with them for almost a year or more.  VFCC backed out of their side of the deal, which they were contractually allowed to do, within 90 days of the event!   I’m sure that if they bothered to follow these things, there’s probably some functionaries in Baltimore cackling at the latest events.

So, now we are at this pass.  The avalanche of poor decisions and frantic knee-jerk response to fix the original bad decision (starting with former HMGS President Pete Panzeri’s much debated unilateral decision to commit HMGS to the BCC for two years) has led us, a scant two years after our 2009 commitment to move Historicon from Lancaster to Baltimore, to a place where we’re throwing a convention that will require 10 times the work for 75% of the space at (I might remind you) 100% of the price of what we paid last year.  That’s an equation I don’t look forward to paying. Mind you, it’s not the fault of the current Board of Directors of HMGS if a convention center in PA decides it wants to become a casino and it is not the fault of former BoD Presidents if a convention center in PA decides it wants to become a casino. That is a factor that is well beyond their control.

To reprise Holman: What the hell happened? 

Obviously, Pete happened. Or if you want a breakdown of the cascade of disaster, we were committed to the BCC before anyone did the homework on what it would end up costing us. Costs like loading and unloading for vendors. Costs like “manning” storage rooms. Or parking, or the cost of hotel rooms in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore and the impact that would have on overnight attendance (e.g., room-nights at the surrounding venues). All this necessitated the switch to the lower cost venue of Valley Forge, midstream, and what we had hoped would be a long term location for HISTORICON, our highest profile convention. And now that is not to be. Obviously, we’ll never know for certain if we would have lost our shirts at Baltimore, but the indicators made it look pretty danged likely. IF we hadn’t listened to the complainers about the Lancaster Host… IF we hadn’t had giant egos about moving the convention to the Inner Harbor.. IF we had repudiated the contract IMMEDIATELY.. IF we stayed at the BCC and taken a one-year loss (impossible really, for reasons I won’t get into).. IF, IF, IF… woulda coulda shoulda. It’s a fine mess. And to be fair to our late President, four HMGS board members at the time voted to go to BCC, so he DID NOT ACT ALONE. I think we all bear some burden for not reigning in a stupid idea and buying into an idea that was so clearly unworkable, just because we wanted it to work. HISTORICON 11 is going to be a challenge from convention director’s standpoint and certainly from the perspective of the long-suffering H’con Staff. I will do what I can to help to help, believing in the “bring me solutions, not more whining” philosophy. Okay, okay give me this one whine. I think we’ve all earned it.

Pete the Cowboy

Having been informed the previous picture is copyrighted, I'm substituting a non-copyrighted image instead. Pete is the gentleman without the feather boa.

He always wanted to leave a legacy to the miniature gaming hobby.   I do believe he has.

Note Bene: “Major PP” was a cognomen I came up for the subject of this post when he asked not to be named specifically in blog posts many years ago. It was simply his military rank and initials and should not be inferred to mean anything but that.


6 responses to “The Legacy of “Major PP” continues

  1. But he’s got that awesome GI Joe Magic Decoder Ring to make everything alright, Walt….

  2. Pete may have been the head of the beast, but I also hold all the “Move Historicon Now” people responsible. Amazingly enough, most of those people did not move with the convention either. Of course, the board being all defensive about actions they did not start in motion has not helped at all.

  3. Totally off topic, but using Jake Holman from Richard McKenna’s Sand Pebbles brought this to mind.
    Recently you did an audio of Avram Davidson’s The Golem. This inspired me to pull out my old, 1971 Ace paperback of Davidson’s novel, The Phoenix and the Mirror.
    Among other people, that work is dedicated to Richard McKenna.
    Davidson apparently loved his work, and when Avram edited a SciFi collection, he included one of McKenna’s short stories.
    Considering their craftmanship, and backgrounds (Davidson was a corpsman with the Marines, and McKenna a Chief Boiler Tender) this isn’t really that surprising. They both wrote very intriguing stuff, in which the details are more vivid and important than in almost any other work I can think of. (Well, maybe Shakespeare and LeCarre.)

  4. I love the BOOK the Sand Pebbles just as much or more than the movie. Okay maybe more. I like Mckenna’s spare, but somehow revealing prose style. The way he depicted the swift downward spiral of the position of the San Pablo in China was simply artful.

  5. Tim Niesen

    Folks, I think that placing the blame on Pete for the actions of the small coterie who had seized control of the Historicon Board is unfair. Over the years, Pete has brought many magnificent games into the halls of war at Historicon! In fact, could he alone have stopped the packing of the HMGS Board with the pro-move coterie? He surely is not entirely to blame for the move to the Baltimore Convention Center. Those who failed to vote in the HMGS elections certainly deserve some of the blame! Tim

    • Thanks for the response, Tim. I’ll try to be fair back to you even if you think I’m being unfair to Pete. First of all: “Over the years, Pete has brought many magnificent games into the halls of war at Historicon!” Um, so what? Lots of GMs have done that, that wouldn’t excuse them from being the focus of a monumental act of stupidity– why does Pete get a pass for this? He doesn’t deserve one. To give you your due, there certainly were more than one player involved in this drama, but Pete is what got this thing started, and that is all I said here. It wasn’t the rest of the BoD that signed contracts with the BCC and/or hotels without approval, it was Pete. That set in motion a series of events trying to “fix the mess”, NOT by Pete, and we find ourselves here today. It took an act of will to go to the Baltimore BY HIMSELF, without CONOPS, and sign, BY HIMSELF, binding us to agreements I can’t get into detail over here. We have the paper trail. To quote John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Signing without approval happened. Witholding details of the contract from the rest of the BoD happened. We’ll move on, we’ll survive the BCC debacle and the Valley Forge debacle, but we shouldn’t forget that it all started with the actions of one man, and that has cost us dearly in time and treasure. Now, do I think this was an evil action? Certainly not. It was a stupid blunder, made by a man who wanted something to be true so much he had on extra dim rosey colored lenses when he made decisions. I don’t portray him as culpable of anything other than making a huge mistake. We’ll get by, but I for one will have a hard time forgetting it.