In a move that’s rankled some fans, Phoenix Comicon’s owner has decided to require its unpaid event staff to be members of a dues-paying, nonprofit “social club” called the Blue Ribbon Army.
UPDATE: Read the latest in this developing story:
An email to management team members from convention director Matt Solberg began circulating on social media Wednesday. In it, Solberg cited difficulty in tracking staff badges and holding the volunteers accountable for their assigned tasks as factors in the policy changes, which also include some director-level staff reduction and department reassignments.
The leaked email makes reference to record attendance and a deal with the Phoenix Convention Center and major hotels for the Memorial Day weekend through 2020, but also expresses concern about dramatic industry changes, competition and changes in attendee habits.
Nerdvana read the letter and reached out to Solberg for confirmation of its authenticity and comment. Square Egg Entertainment (Phoenix Comicon) spokeswoman Kristin Rowan responded with the below press release announcing the partnership and its effect on Phoenix Comicon staffing, including the related Fan Fest and Keen Halloween events. The press release confirms that all Phoenix Comicon volunteer staff will be recruited from among the members of a Blue Ribbon Army committee.
An annual membership in the Blue Ribbon Army starts at $20, but can run up to $40 or even $100 with various levels of added benefits.
According to the announcement, panelists, guests, vendors and sponsors are not required to join the Blue Ribbon Army group as a condition of their participation, but are encouraged to do so.
Blue Ribbon Army, a 501(c)(7) nonprofit social club, creates committee to organize and staff Phoenix Comicon, Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween
Phoenix, AZ December 29, 2016: Earlier this year, principles at Square Egg Entertainment and Blue Ribbon Army met to discuss a possible partnership for event planning, promoting Blue Ribbon Army, and offering added incentives for those currently assisting with Phoenix Comicon. In response to these meetings, Matt Solberg, Matt Hinds, and Jen Hinds collectively formed a social club and applied for 501(c)(7) status for the Blue Ribbon Army Social Club, incorporated March 15, 2016. Board members of the social club are Matt Solberg, Joe Boudrie, and Matt Hinds. Matt and Jen Hinds are the President and Vice President of the club, respectively.
The Blue Ribbon Army is a social group primarily dedicated to creating a safe, geek-friendly atmosphere where like-minded individuals can meet new friends. The Blue Ribbon Army, in accordance with federal guidelines for nonprofit social clubs, will charge membership dues, will host a minimum of one social event per month, will participate in community events, and will host fundraisers for its chosen charities.
One of the community events in which the social club has elected to participate is Phoenix Comicon, and has formed a committee to that end. Square Egg Entertainment will no longer recruit its own staff for its event production. Anyone interested in helping to support this event, and all staff for Phoenix Comicon, will be members of this committee, and of the social club. Participating on the Phoenix Comicon committee is not a requirement of membership in the Blue Ribbon Army, and membership is not required to join the Blue Ribbon Army Facebook group.
This change does not affect panelists, guests, vendors, or sponsors, though any of these are welcome to join the social club and we encourage corporate memberships.
Square Egg Entertainment and Blue Ribbon Army look forward to a long and successful partnership and to our first joint event. Blue Ribbon Army membership information, benefits, and events are available on the website at www.blueribbonarmy.com.