With most of the results in for the 2014 midterm elections, many Democrats are looking to the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) and the opportunity for their nominees to battle the Republicans who are now the majority in U.S. Congress.
Long before this next competition between the political parties can begin, the Democratic Party must select a host city for its convention.
There are five cities still in the running to host the DNC, including Columbus, Ohio. Just like any other convention city, Columbus is no stranger to competition at home and across the U.S.
Although bidding for the DNC, as well as its earlier bid for the Republican National Convention (RNC), is a bit different from the other times the city demonstrated its capabilities for hosting large events and tradeshows.
This time around, city officials are excited about new developments that will ensure greater delegate experience.
Coming in early 2015 are two hotels – a 155-room Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in a section of the 47-story LeVeque Tower and The Joseph, with 135 rooms. Both properties complement existing hotels, such as the 532-room Hilton Columbus Downtown, and will help accommodate 6,000 delegates and the more than 15,000 members of the press who will descend on the city if Columbus wins its bid.
Additionally, the 1.7 million square-foot Greater Columbus Convention Center is undergoing a two-year $125 million expansion. Exhibition space will increase from 336,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space to 374,000 square feet.
“We’re renovating the convention center to have more connection to the city and brand,” added Brian Ross, CTA, president and CEO, Experience Columbus.
Along with the nearby 18,500-seat Nationwide Arena, Columbus also provides a freeway system offering quick accessibility to downtown, two entertainment districts and outdoor event spaces.
“Columbus also benefits from its walkability. Greater Columbus Convention Center is within a block of the Nationwide Arena. Nobody has buildings as close as we do,” said Ross. “With those assets, we would provide the best delegate experience.”
Ross also cited Columbus’ unique location as an asset against competitors Phoenix, Ariz., Birmingham, Ala., New York City and Philadelphia.
“Historically, northern Ohio is Democratic; southern is Republican and central is considered ‘the swing city within the swing state.’ Central could go either way in the election. Central is where Columbus is located and is home to 1.7 million people,” he added. “If Democrats don’t choose Columbus, are they willing to give it to the Republicans?”
The Republican National Convention (RNC) already chose Columbus’ closest competitor – Cleveland. Prior to this, Columbus was in the running for the RNC, and Ross explained the lessons learned from the experience, such as how influential politics are when choosing a city.
“It’s not if you can handle it; it’s really political. It’s more about how decision-makers view the city,” Ross said.
For the Midwestern city, hosting either of the conventions was not about political affiliation. Each three-week political convention generates $160-200 million in economic impact, according to Ross, and if Ohio hosts both, it would not only be rare, but double the economic impact.
“Our greatest assets are private-public partnerships. We modernized the airport [at $80 million], grew the population downtown from 2,100 to 6,800 from 2000 to 2014 and brought vibrancy and urban living to downtown,” he stated.
Confident in Columbus’ capabilities, Ross and the rest of the world are no doubt looking forward to the DNC selection committee’s final decision. A finalist is expected to be chosen in late 2014 or early 2015.