Thursday, December 24, 2009

SLC a bad Choice for 2012 GOP Convention

DISCLAIMER: This post directly involves my employer. The views expressed in this post do not reflect the opinions of my employer, their parent company, nor their sponsors.

Bryan Schott over at Utah Policy shared the following yesterday:

Greg Miller (CEO of the Larry Miller Companies) sent this message via his Twitter account on Monday afternoon.

Just left a mtg @ SLCVB. Early planning on bid to host 2012 Republican National Convention in SLC.

Salt Lake City hosting the RNC is an interesting prospect, but there are a few things working against any potential bid. First, Utah is not a “battleground" state, so it’s not clear what hosting it here would do for the GOP. If Mitt Romney is the eventual nominee, there’s no glossing over his LDS faith, which is something the evangelical wing of the party is not exactly favorable toward.

If the goal is to bring the convention to the Intermountain West, which is becoming more and more of a political force, Phoenix or Denver seems like a more favorable choice.

However, it is interesting that Greg Miller appears to be part of the effort to bring the convention to Salt Lake. The financial backing and political capital he brings to the table cannot be discounted.

First, I'll take issue with a couple of things in Bryan's piece:

1) Phoenix or Denver would be better choices in the West (They are battleground states), but I don't think Denver is ready to mount an effort so soon after hosting in 2008.

2) The only viable venue for the convention is EnergySolutions Arena. Mr Miller is on board because, well, his family owns the venue. Holding to what has happened in the past, the Arena would be turned over to the RNC from the end of the NBA Finals in June until about a month following the convention. Assuming that the convention is around Labor Day, that affects a couple of touring events that are usually held there in September (the Dew Tour and the circus).

Now, a major logistics issue from my experience in Denver: Security.

The first checkpoint in Denver was a quarter mile from the Pepsi Center, which translates into about 1.5 Salt Lake City blocks. So, we'd be blocking off from almost West High School to almost Pioneer Park and from West of the Gateway to the backside of the Family History Library. There's a couple of hotels and several other businesses (including Triad Center) that would be affected by this, not to mention that the Secret Service would probably require the Gateway to be shuttered for the week. And, it would include the North Temple viaduct being closed, along with no TRAX service into downtown on the Airport line, no TRAX from the Intermodal Hub, and downtown TRAX ending at Temple Square.

The other issue is that the parking lots used fr the media tents in Denver are roughly three times the size as Park Place (the large surface lot across 300 West from Triad Center) which represents a large portion of the space available for such things.

Add to that the large amount of police protection that will strain every police force in the state (I saw officers in Denver from as far away as Durango), and you have just started to scratch the surface of what it would take to host the convention.



Todd said...

Having attended - and been the Utah arrangements chair - for five national political conventions, I do think that Salt Lake is capable of hosting the 2012 GOP convention.

As to the political wisdom of choosing Salt Lake -- that is for the RNC to decide.

You are right about the TRAX situation and the intermodal hub. This was a problem in Boston and New York, too. The convention centers were located at major public transportation sites that were indeed locked down to the locals great annoyance. You are also right about the strain on local police forces.

As to the timing, the GOP as the Party out of the White House, traditionally would go first. I would think that ES Arena could be back in operation by or shortly after Labor Day. I know that in Chicago at the United Center, they hosted a major concert less than ten days later.

As for the media tents, I suspect that they would simply close 300 W and other surrounding streets to make room. Triad would have VERY limited access -- in fact they would want to close it up for the week -- and Gateway might well become unavailable to locals, too.

Finally, there is the matter of $60 million dollars for the host committee -- most of which would have to come from local sources and are used for all the events that take place outside the official convention center venue. If Utah lobbyists think they are put upon for funding now, just wait for something like this. Denver and Minniapolis/St Paul had significant problems raising their committments in 2008.

Our hotels are not ideal in size or location, either. But we wouldn't be the first city with that kind of problem, either. In fact, it is becoming the norm outside the largest cities. Even Los Angeles was not totally adequate with delegates spread all the way from Long Beach to the valley.

Of course, Las Vegas is the ideal. There are more hotel rooms on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana than on the entire island of Manhattan. The facilities would be top notch. Security is tight.

But then the parties think of politics and all the advantages of Las Vegas go out the window. So, you never know what the criteria will be for the final decision.

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