DisCon III Hotel Waits
To Learn Fate

Employees of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington D.C., main venue of the 2021 Worldcon, have been notified of the hotel’s potential permanent closure. The facility has been shuttered since March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Members of Local 25, the union representing hotel workers, told local ABC affiliate WTOP they were informed of the potential closure during Zoom calls held with more than 500 Wardman Park employees.

Marriott spokesperson Casey Kennett told a WTOP reporter:

Marriott International has provided advance notice to employees, government officials and union officials about a potential closure of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.

The hotel has been temporarily closed since March. At this time, no decision has been made about the hotel’s future operation and reopening, as discussions are ongoing.

The 2021 Worldcon committee today posted a “Statement from DisCon III Regarding Marriott Wardman Park”:

DisCon III is aware of the news stories that have been published recently about the Marriott Wardman Park and we are monitoring the situation closely.  We are in contact with our salesperson at the hotel and other industry contacts, and are receiving updates. As the news stories made clear, there are ongoing discussions but no formal decisions have been made.

Just after winning the bid, DisCon III signed a contract with the Omni Shoreham for all of its function space and a significant majority of its hotel rooms.  This contract is not impacted by the discussions at the Marriott Wardman Park.

Throughout all of this, DisCon III remains committed and confident that we will host a fabulous Worldcon in Washington, DC next year, and we look forward to welcoming you.

The property was formerly the site of the Sheraton-Park Hotel, where the 1974 Worldcon was held. Sheraton replaced that structure with a modern brick tower and in 1980 reopened it as the Sheraton Washington Hotel. Marriott International took over management in 1998 and changed the name to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.

If Marriott closes the hotel, there is always the possibility another chain might take it over. There would still be important questions about how soon it would resume operations, and what terms new management might require to host next summer’s Worldcon. Meanwhile, DisCon III has its space in the nearby Omni Shoreham.  

8 thoughts on “DisCon III Hotel Waits
To Learn Fate

  1. I don’t know whether there’s anyone on the concom who has been in fandom long enough to remember directly when a bid run out of the Northeast won with an Orlando site that broke its contract (now reported to be due to bankruptcy; at the time that explanation wasn’t generally known), resulting in the convention moving to the aging Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. At least there are alternates closer in DC. I do wonder how they will manage, assuming they actually needed both sites (IIRC 1974 used only the now-Wardman with all its attachments); the DC in 92 bid might not have gotten many votes using the next-nearest big hotel (a then-Hilton ~3/4 of a mile away) if they had gotten to the balloting instead of having to fold when one of their sites said “Sign now or we sign with someone else” a few months before the balloting (and just after I’d and N3 had shipped an elaborate bidder interrogation). Interesting times….

  2. I would not be surprised if another chain bought the property and would want to keep a lucrative contract such as Worldcon.

  3. Since buying Starwood (Sheraton & Westin), Marriott is the elephant in the room; if they didn’t think toughing out the pandemic to keep the property open was worthwhile, I’d be surprised if someone else had the resources to risk it. And wrt Worldcon being a lucrative contract: [KHepburn accent]”We’re bottom feeders, Henry.”[/KHepburn accent] Worldcon bidders couldn’t get usable contracts with Boston or Seattle (and maybe San Francisco — I don’t know how voluntary the group’s move of their 2nd convention to San Jose was) because hotels in prime cities (of which DC is one) want more for rooms than fans are willing to pay. (Yes, this is a simplification.) We don’t do food functions, we don’t swamp the bar, we are not lucrative by industry standards.

  4. Chip Hitchcock on June 25, 2020 at 7:20 pm said:

    I don’t know how voluntary the group’s move of their 2nd convention to San Jose was.

    The San Francisco Marriott (which some of you may know bailed on us before the 1993 Worldcon), raised the stakes so high to be able to use their hotel that we decided that running a Worldcon using the spare tire like we did in 1993 wasn’t a good idea and that we’d rather go to a city that actually wanted our business rather than one that said, “Well, if you insist, we’ll let you do it.” Among other things, they wanted more in F&B (as I recall) than our total convention budget would have been. We concluded that they didn’t really want our business, but it was easier to just raise the price to something we couldn’t afford than to flat-out say, “Go Away.” (In 1993, they effectively concluded that being mostly empty and having no space-rental income was better than hosting us. Pity; it’s a great property physically.)

    In the Bay Area, we have the benefit of having more than one viable site. San Francisco is essentially now out of our price range unless someone wins the lottery and has a spare $1 million to hand. (Don’t think I haven’t fantasized about it!)

  5. That sounds even worse than the screwing Boston in 2001 got, where the hotel wanted a “mere” $40/roomnight in F&B guarantees. (Very rough math: 5 nights x 1000 rooms x $40 = $200K — almost as much as the total budget for 1980, but well under half (under a quarter, maybe?) of what Worldcons in this millennium spend.

    That’s the difference between genre conventions (whoever runs them) and professional. Back when my partner’s job was making sure her insurance employers followed laws of several different states, the conference of her fellow specialists included breakfast & lunch every day (so people could network and didn’t have to take time away from the conference hunting for food) and big free-catered social events some evenings — all for a registration fee several times what Worldcons were charging. Even so, the conference alternated between interesting/relaxing places (Scottsdale, Las Vegas) and ordinary (St. Louis, Cincinnatti) — and IIRC its registration fee was about half that of some non-moving technical conferences/conventions. Genre conventions just aren’t in that league.

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