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Three Ohio cities among 8 finalists for 2016 Republican presidential convention

TNS Regional News • Feb 27, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Calling it “our Super Bowl” and the opportunity to showcase the city’s “swagger” to the world, Columbus officials submitted a bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, and is preparing to compete for the Democratic convention.

This morning, Reince Priebus, the chairman for the Republican National Committee, announced on Twitter a list of eight finalists who submitted bids Wednesday: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix. A winner is expected to be picked by late August or early September.

This morning Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced that three Ohio cities are among the eight finalists to host the 2016 RNC convention. Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland are all submitting bids to the RNC.

"The road to the White House runs through Ohio. It is the ultimate battleground state," said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. "Not only does Ohio have three world-class cities capable of hosting a national convention, but bringing one here would put our candidate and Party's message directly in front of voters.  We will do everything we can to support our cities' bids for the convention."

Hosting either would “put Columbus on the map globally,” said Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus. “This is about economic development, not politics, and will be an economic surge for the city for the five or six years after.”

“Its really unique for a state to have three cities considered viable hosts for a national convention, that says a lot about Ohio,” said Jo Ann Davidson, chairwoman of the Ohio Casino Commission and a member of the Republican National Committee.

“I’m not sure any other state could do that, maybe Texas.”

The 2016 Republican convention is expected to attract 45,000 visitors, total 65,000 hotel room nights and create $150 million to $200 million in economic impact, Ross said.

The last national political convention held in Ohio was in Cleveland in 1936, when the Republicans nominated Alf Landon. In recent elections, Ohio’s importance as a swing state has meant scores of visits from presidential candidates.

“If you win central Ohio, you win Ohio, and if you win Ohio you win the White House,” Ross said.

All three Ohio cities have a legitimate chance, said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and member of the party’s national committee.

“Columbus sells itself and people were already speculating it was one of the three or four most-likely places,” he said. “Cleveland’s been involved before and is a strong candidate and southwest Ohio is the Republican’s bread and butter.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, Mayor Michael B. Coleman and county and state officials will lead a delegation that is planning to meet today in Washington, D.C. with the Democratic National Committee. The committee has not sent out a request for proposals for its 2016 national convention.

“Merely by competing is a statement to the nation and the world that Columbus is ready for prime time ... and shows the world Columbus has swagger,” Coleman said.

A win by one of the three Ohio cities would be a boost for the entire state, said Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a coalition of local CEOs.

“That being said, Columbus is leading our state and the Midwest in job creation and has become known as one of the cosmopolitan cities of the Midwest,” he said.

The city’s Democratic leadership won’t be a negative factor, said Davidson, a former Ohio House speaker and member of the Republican’s site selection committee for its 2008 national convention, which was held in Minneapolis.

“What really factors in is a city’s interest and the desire of the community to host the convention,” she said. “I’ll do all the lobbying I can on behalf of Ohio.”

Requirements to host the Republicans include an arena capable of holding 18,000 people, 40,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of space for a media center near the arena, parking for 2,000 cars and 300-plus buses and 16,000 first-class hotel rooms, plus 1,000 one- and two-bedroom suites.

The winning city must raise an estimated $55 million to defray convention costs.

JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized development agency, pledged up to $10 million to any Ohio city that lands either national convention. Earlier this month, Kasich said his administration would seek to “boost” convention bids with funding – JobsOhio turned out to be the solution.

“We meet all the requirements,” Coleman said of the Republican’s wish list for 2016, adding this wasn’t the case in 2006 when the city considered bidding on the Republican convention, but eventually decided not to.

“We weren’t ready then, we are now,” he said, citing the Scioto Mile, Columbus Commons, growth of the Short North and opening of the Hilton Downtown Columbus and other hotels as growth factors that make Columbus a serious contender.

Coleman, Ross and others will make a pitch to the Republicans on Monday in Washington, D.C.

“The expectations are they’ll have a short list by the middle of March and whoever’s on that list will receive a site inspection visit in April,” Ross said.

Cleveland was on the Republican’s 2008 short list and received a site visit, Davidson said.

Winning one of the 2016 presidential conventions could help drop “Ohio” from the end of Columbus when referred to nationally, Ross said.

“I read a lot of stories about the convention process and it continues to irk me that you’ll see Cleveland and Phoenix and Las Vegas mentioned and they only write the name of the city,” he said. “And then they’ll list Columbus and they always put the OH right after.

“We love Ohio, but we want to stand on our own like these other cities.”

The city could also bid on the Democratic presidential convention, Ross said. Officials from the city and Experience Columbus are scheduled to meet with the Democratic National Committee today in Washington, D.C.

The Democrats have not yet sent out their request for a proposal for their convention, he said.

The Republican presidential convention will bring an expected 45,000 visitors to the winning city.

Requirements include an arena capable of holding 18,000 people, 40,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of space fore a media center near the arena, parking for 2,000 cars and 300-plus buses and 16,000 first-class hotel rooms, plus 1,000 one- and two-bedroom suites.

Columbus could not meet these requirements in the past, but the opening of the Hilton Columbus Downtown helped the city meet the standards.

“Mayor Coleman is driving the bus on this,” Ross said of the bid.

Coleman was in Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic national convention “and came back and said this could work in Columbus and will be a great opportunity to show the city off to the world.”


By Steve Wartenberg - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

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