Kansas City takes on GOP wish list for 2016 convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Host committees from Kansas City and at least a dozen other major cities across the country now know exactly what it will take to land the 2016 Republican National Convention, and they have until February 26 to convince GOP leaders with their bids.

Sixteen thousand "first class" hotel rooms, an 18,000 seat arena available for weeks beforehand and 5,000 volunteers are among the eye-popping numbers listed as "basic requirements" in the request for proposal (RFP) sent to competing cities last week.

The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, which is spearheading the Kansas City metro's bid, provided 41 Action News with a copy of the 28-page document which will in large part decide which city will claim the national spotlight and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact that comes with hosting a convention.

The document lays out the RNC's basic requirements for hosting the convention  then leaves cities the opportunity to sell the GOP on what more they can bring to the table.

The RFP asks for an 18,000 seat arena, with skyboxes for television anchor booths and room for 2,500 delegates on the floor. It might be a tight fit in the Sprint Center, which seats 18,500 for basketball games, but does appear to meet the basic requirements.

The RFP calls for "unlimited and exclusive access" to the facility for six weeks before the convention. If the GOP decides to move the convention from August to early summer, that clause could help Kansas City's bid.

Unlike New Orleans, Phoenix, Denver or other cities reported to be interested in landing the convention,  Kansas City's primary venue has no basketball or hockey anchor tenant to compete for access.

Near the convention site itself, the RFP calls for hundreds of thousands of square feet of additional space for other convention-related functions: 75,000 square feet for "function rooms," 40,000 square feet of office space and a whopping 250,000 – 350,000 square feet for a media center. In Kansas City's bid, the convention center less than a half mile west on 13th street would likely fit the bill.

Interested cities must also be able to set aside 16,000 "first class" hotel rooms for delegates, plus any available suites, for the duration of the convention. More rooms would be needed for media, vendors, and other attendees.  According to the KCCVA, the Kansas City metro has 32,000 hotel rooms in total – although not all would likely be considered "first class."

The form asks cities for information on dining options: how many bars and restaurants? Who's open 24 hours? 

Annie Presley, a political strategist with the Bryan Cave Law Firm, helped New York City land the Republican convention in 2004. She believes competition for the convention will be fierce enough to guarantee cities find a way to meet these minimum requirements.

"They'll get everything they want and they'll get more," Presley said. "Because the real trick of it will be that the city that wins will add some special opportunities that only they can provide, so something unique to their city."

Presley said reaching the volunteer goal and securing hotel rooms should be among the simpler tasks for Kansas City. Providing adequate transportation to and from downtown and raising the estimated $50-$70 million dollars needed to pay for the convention would be the city's larger challenges.

"Raising the money is daunting. And the thing is that the numbers get higher and higher and if you want to put on a really good party, you've got to spend a lot of money," Presley said. "Anybody who says raising the money is easy, hasn't raised a lot of money."

While economic impact of conventions is notoriously difficult to measure accurately, a study released by the University of Tampa in August pegged the indirect economic impact of the 2012 convention on that area at $404 million. Presley said her experience in New York made her believe that landing the convention would be a boon for Kansas City as well.

"We filled every theater night after night after night. They did extra matinee shows. It was crazy the number of people who wanted to do New York-y activities they otherwise might not have gotten to experience in their lifetime," Presley said.

For Kansas City's bid to be successful – particularly against cities with experience and infrastructure geared towards hosting large conventions - the city must sell what makes it unique, be that barbecue or Midwestern bonhomie.

"Every time some big organization or some big activity happens here, people say. ‘I had no idea Kansas City was this cool. I had no idea you had this much going on,'" Presley said. "It may be the quaint, quirky Kansas City is where everybody wants to go. It may just be the very advantage that we're looking for."

Garrett Haake can be reached at garrett.haake@kshb.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on his Facebook page .

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