Denver makes cut in 2016 RNC site selection process

Along with Dallas, Kansas City and Cleveland…
The Colorado Statesman

On Wednesday night, at the Wings Over the Rockies venue where president emeritus of the U.S. Olympic Committee Bill Hybl was being honored with the Mizel Institute’s Cultural Enrichment Award, State Republican Chairman Ryan Call could hardly contain himself. The Republican National Committee was set to announce the following day, he disclosed, that Denver had made it to the round of three finalists bidding for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

One out of three chances wasn’t too shabby and Call was clearly riding high.

Within 24 hours, however, Denver’s chances of securing the political plum shifted slightly to one out of four. That’s because the RNC allowed three other cities besides Denver to stay in the hunt: Dallas, Cleveland and Kansas City, Mo.

The cities of Las Vegas and Cincinnati withdrew their initial bids before the announcement this week because they did not meet all the specifications of the RNC’s site selection committee.

Las Vegas wouldn’t have enough time to prepare for the convention and doesn’t have an arena capable of seating delegates and guests, according to a letter sent by the Nevada 2016 Host Committee. Officials in Las Vegas said they will try again in 2020. And officials in Cincinnati cited similar concerns that it did not have the physical capability to host such a sizable convention.

Instead of eliminating a fourth contender, the RNC let all remaining cities move on in the selection process.

“All cities excelled in nearly every aspect of their bids and presentation this year, but these four cities stood out from the field from the start of this process and deserve a deeper look by the full committee,” site selection committee chair Enid Mickelsen said in a statement.

“With our gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains and welcoming Western attitude, we believe there is no city better equipped or more excited to the host the Republican National Convention,” Denver 2016 Chairman Pete Coors said. “Our broad coalition of business, civic and political leaders have worked hard to show the Site Selection Committee why Denver is the perfect choice for the 2016 Republican National Convention, and we look forward to continuing this effort as we advance in this exciting new phase.”

Members of the site selection committee will travel to Denver on June 9-11 for an official visit. RNC officials came to Denver one day last month where they looked at some of the infrastructure already in place from having hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the 2012 DU Presidential Debate.

“Denver has a strong reputation for hosting successful world-class events, and we look forward to the opportunity to show off our beautiful city once again,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. “The city’s track record, numerous downtown accommodations and terrific summer weather make Denver an excellent choice to host the RNC in 2016.”’

Gov. John Hickenlooper was likewise elated. “We’re thrilled and grateful to hear this news, but not entirely surprised. After all, Denver is a thriving city and has the almost unfair advantage of being in Colorado, a place of unparalleled natural splendor,” Hickenlooper pointed out. “With over 300 days of sunshine and the world’s greatest outdoor playground just a short ride way, no other city but Denver can offer the combination of convenience and experience that we can.”

The other cities also have impressive credentials and equally vocal enthusiasts. The 2016 convention would mark the 40th anniversary of the last time the Republicans held their national convention in Kansas City, which is also emphasizing its heartland values in its bid.
Dallas officials were equally jubilant at having made the cut and are hopeful that they’ll get the chance to host another RNC.

“We’re still in the middle of this. We could easily lose this, but we’re going to work hard to make sure we don’t,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was quoted as telling the Dallas Morning News. He said his bid committee is doing its best to meet the RNC’s needs. “They’re the customer, and we’re the sales guys. So all I’m doing right now is saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Whatever they want,” Rawlings told the Dallas media.

Cleveland, the other remaining player in the 2016 convention sweepstakes, was initially one of three Ohio bidders along with the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati. Now that it is the sole candidate from the Buckeye State, Cleveland officials have pledged to showcase the entire region.

“It’s not just Ohio, this is going to be a whole Great Lakes initiative because it’s time for us as a Great Lakes economy, the fourth largest economy in the world to get on stage,” said Greater Cleveland Partnership President Joe Roman.

Weighing in heavily in each city’s bid is their ability to raise local funds in order to stage what will likely cost a total of $55-$60 million for the four day event roughly a little more than two years from now.

Dallas has surpassed Denver in the amount of donations and pledges raised.

Denver has reportedly secured a little more than half of the $20 million local component, but Dallas, which has access to sales and tourist taxes from a special fund earmarked for major events in that state, has more than doubled that amount.

Finances will likely be a hurdle for all the bidders, Mayor Hancock acknowledged. But he is optimistic that Denver will be able to surmount any obstacles, he said.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com