The 2016 Republican National Convention will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center if the city wins the right to host the nationally televised event, which could be a $400 million-plus boon to Southern Nevada’s economy, the convention center confirmed Tuesday.
The Las Vegas Host Committee is proposing the convention center over two other potential sites — University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Thomas &Mack Center and an MGM Resorts International/AEG arena to be completed by the spring of 2016 — because of security issues, the Review-Journal has learned.
A large security perimeter is required for the political parties’ conventions. Holding the event at the convention center would be less disruptive for casinos because it’s about one mile from the north end of the Strip, or a four-minute drive. The MGM site could have affected five to 15 casino properties, shutting down parts of the famous Strip. The convention center security perimeter would require closing parts of Paradise Drive, Joe W. Brown Drive and Desert Inn Road.
The Las Vegas Host Committee, led by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, is submitting its updated bid to the Republican National Committee by a Wednesday deadline for cities to formally ask to host the GOP presidential nominating convention.
Las Vegas has emerged as a front-runner in the competition with other cities that have expressed interest, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Mo., Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
Krolicki said Tuesday he has been pleased with national media coverage of Las Vegas’s bid. But he said the city still has to go through a long process of persuading the RNC’s Convention Site Selection Committee to pick the gaming capital as a finalist after making site visits and for the full Republican National Committee to select the winner as soon as this summer.
“It’s very comforting and flattering to read positive things about the potential for the convention to be held in Las Vegas,” Krolicki said. “But at the end of the day, it’s still up to a couple of dozen people,” he added, referring to the 12-member site selection panel and other RNC leaders involved in the decision-making process. “Until they make a decision, I take no comfort in this. Every city that decides to be fully engaged has an equal opportunity to come out on top.”
Despite the caution, Krolicki said he is confident in Nevada’s ability to organize the convention because it holds 22,000 meetings and conventions a year, including major events involving 150,000 participants. He also feels sure the Las Vegas Host Committee will be able to raise the $55 million to $70 million needed to put on the convention.
“We’re confident that we’ll have a strong bid,” Krolicki said. “We’re confident we can raise the funds if we’re selected. We’ve worked very hard.”
The timing of the 2016 GOP convention could impact Nevada’s effort to secure the Las Vegas Convention Center for the event, however. Vince Alberta, vice president of public affairs for the convention center, said the sooner the GOP settles on dates the better. That is because it often takes a couple of weeks before big conventions to prepare the space and a couple of weeks afterward to tear it down. Other conventions could be competing for the site at the same time.
The expectation is the GOP convention would last three or four days and require a venue that will hold 18,000 people, including at least 70 sky boxes for network coverage needs. The convention will attract about 50,000 visitors in all.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has said he wants to hold the GOP convention in late June or early July in 2016 instead of late August or early September to allow a shorter primary season and longer general election campaign, giving the Republican presidential nominee a better chance against the Democratic nominee.
The Las Vegas convention center has about 2 million square feet of exhibition space and nearly 250,000 square feet of meeting space. It’s within walking distance of 100,000 hotel rooms, far more than the 70,000 convention requirement.
“We have always been interested in new business,” Alberta said, noting the convention center is working closely with the Las Vegas Host Committee to ensure the venue would be ready and available for the 2016 event.
Alberta noted the convention center is setting up for the CONEXPO-CON/AGG convention next week. It’s held every three years in Las Vegas to demonstrate the newest equipment, technology and product breakthroughs in construction. About 125,000 convention delegates are expected for a nongaming economic impact of $157.3 million.
Las Vegas is the No. 1 trade show destination in North America. The city hosts more than 22,000 meetings and conventions every year, representing more than 5 million business travelers for an economic impact of $6.8 billion, he said.
If Las Vegas wins the 2016 convention bid, the convention center would need $4 million to $5 million in retrofits — including building a proposed 88 sky boxes — to be paid for by the host committee, according to organizers.
The convention floor would be in the central hall. The media would work in the same building, either out of the south hall with almost 950 square feet of space or the north hall with 400 square feet of space. In other convention cities, media often have to work in separate buildings or inside big tents erected next to the convention sites.
Telecommunications should be no problem since the convention center is used to massive Wi-Fi usage at events, particularly the Consumer Electronics Show that attracts 150,000 participants each year, organizers said.
After submitting 2016 GOP convention bids, the next steps are for cities to be visited by the site selection committee “to kick the tires” and see whether each city is prepared to handle such a major event, according to Krolicki.
The cities must demonstrate they can raise the necessary funds, which Nevada organizers said should be no problem, especially with so many generous donors on the Strip — such as Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson — and corporate interests as well. Organizers expect to seek six or seven levels of donations, ranging from under $25,000 to $1 million-plus, and expect about $10 million in in-kind donations.
“I think they will show up in great strength if Las Vegas is the convention city,” Krolicki said of donors.
Weather could be a factor, although Las Vegas is less hot in late June and early July than in August.
On Tuesday, Las Vegas got a boost from Roger Simon, who wrote a humorous opinion piece for Politico.com.
“Consider the following cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas,” he wrote. “In which city would you like to spend four days in June or July engaged in mindless behavior and the lack of any meaningful activity, often leading to drunken stupor?
“In other words, which city should the Republican National Committee choose for its presidential nominating convention in 2016?” he asked, then made the case for so-called Sin City, which is “said by some to be the front-runner.”
“Las Vegas is no longer the Sin City it was, because all of America now sins in similar ways,” he said, noting legal gambling is widespread in the United States now, from riverboat casinos to Indian casinos.
He quoted John Ryder, the general counsel of the RNC, who told The Washington Post: “Anybody can put together a booth, a hospitality suite and a gift bag. Show me the money.”
“When I read that, I knew Vegas had this thing wrapped up,” Simon wrote, concluding his piece. “It is the American city that is all about the money. It’s going to be Las Vegas in 2016, baby. I’ll give you 2-to-1 on it.”