KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City has advanced to the final four in the selection process to determine the host city of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Dallas, Denver and Cleveland also advanced. Las Vegas and Cincinnati each quietly withdrew their bids to be considered prior to Thursday’s announcement.
RNC officials will make site visits to the remaining cities beginning in June, with a final decision on the convention site expected in August.
“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,” RNC site selection committee chairperson Enid Mickelsen said in a statement.
Bringing the Republican Party’s quadrennial confab to Kansas City has become a top priority for Kansas City’s Democratic mayor Sly James, who told reporters Thursday that the city was ready to battle at the highest level to land the convention.
“We will compete head up with the other three cities and let the chips fall where they may,” Mayor James said.
Republican Party officials in Washington and nationwide have praised Kansas City for the enthusiastic effort put forth thus far and for some of the more compelling elements of the region’s pitch.
Kansas City’s best attribute in luring Republicans may be the availability of the Sprint Center, which would house the convention. Party leaders would prefer to hold their nominating convention in June and need access to the main site for several weeks prior. Both Dallas and Denver have NBA and NHL teams that use their primary arenas and could make playoff runs into the late spring and early summer.
If the convention remains in July, Kansas City would lose its calendar advantage and would continue to face daunting challenges that could stand in the way of its selection.
Kansas City has fewer hotel rooms, more widely scattered around the metro, than does Dallas or Denver. The city also lacks any major public transportation infrastructure. Neither Kansas nor Missouri is considered a battleground state in presidential elections, as are Colorado and Ohio.
“Distance kills,” one top GOP official and veteran of more than 20 years of conventions told 41 Action News, explaining that the more time delegates and media have to spend on busses in transit, the less excited they’ll be on the convention floor. TV viewers – the convention’s true target audience – can tell the difference.
Members of the KC Task Force addressed this issue head-on.
“Transportation in all forms is an issue for this convention. The more transportation options we have, the better off we're going to be,” Mayor James said.
Bill George, the owner of Kansas City’s largest taxi company and the man in charge of the transportation portion of KC’s bid, said more than 360 busses would be used to zip delegates through the city, and the committee has told the RNC no one will spend more than 30 minutes on a bus from their hotel. Dedicated bus lanes will be included in that plan.
Kansas City will now also face renewed pressure to step up its fundraising. The host committee is expected to have to raise between $50 and $60 million to land the convention – a far less difficult task in a GOP hotbed like Texas than in purple Missouri. Officials with Kansas City’s bid have kept their fundraising totals thus far a closely guarded secret.
“I can tell you that we're not worried about our fundraising efforts relative to anybody, or relative to the objective norm that we have to meet,” Mayor James said Thursday. “We will meet our goals and we are doing quite well in that regard.”