WASHINGTON — Las Vegas advanced another step on Wednesday in its bid to showcase the Republican Party and itself by hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention.
The Republican National Committee announced the Nevada city as one of six that have made the next cut as judged by a 13-member site selection committee that heard bidder presentations last month in Washington.
Besides Las Vegas, cities still in are Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Cleveland and Cincinnati, officials said. Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, were eliminated.
“The eyes of the world will be on the RNC and our host city in the summer of 2016, and these six cities have shown they have what it takes to move forward,” said Enid Mickelson, the Utah party leader who is chairwoman of the site panel.
The next step is for a scout team of Republican National Committee staffers to visit the selected cities later this month or early in May, part of what the party officials said will be a more in-depth and technical review of each city’s bid. The staff will look at financing, proposed convention venues, hotels and media work space.
An announcement of which cities will receive formal site visits from the full site selection committee will be made after the party’s spring meeting May 6-10 in Memphis, Tenn. Site visits would take place later that month or in early June.
Republican officials said a site decision is expected in late summer or in the fall. The party is considering the weeks of June 27 or July 18 for the 2016 convention, which would bring up to 50,000 people to the chosen city as Republicans officially nominate their choice for president and seek to catapult that candidate into the fall.
While a major and complex undertaking, holding the national convention also is expected to produce a boon for the host city, with party officials estimating its value to the local economy about $400 million.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said Mickelson told him in a phone call that Las Vegas was still in the running and the Republicans want to take a closer look. No date has yet been set for the visit by evaluators nor how long they would spend in the city.
“They think enough of us to move us forward in the process, and we are delighted,” said Krolicki, chairman of the Nevada Host Committee. “I think they will understand when they have a chance to kick our tires how extraordinary this place will be should they wish to bring the Republican National Convention here in 2016.”
Bob List, a former governor and Republican National Committee member and senior adviser to the Las Vegas bid, said making the first cut will improve the city’s ability to lock down financial commitments for the convention.
“This confirms that we’re certainly in the hunt and we’ve made a significant step forward,” List said. “There’s still a ways to go, but I think we’re off to a good start with the committee.”
“I think we can win this on the merits,” List said of the Las Vegas bid. “We can raise the money and give the delegates a good experience.”
Las Vegas is considered one of the front-runners in the competition to win the 2016 convention, partly because the city routinely handles conventions of 50,000 to 150,000 participants.
Also, the Las Vegas convention team has expressed confidence the city can easily raise the $60 million required to hold the convention thanks to generous GOP donors such as Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson and casino mogul Steve Wynn.
The proposed site is the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is near McCarran International Airport and close to tens of thousands of hotel rooms on the city’s famous Strip. Other cities in contention might have greater transportation issues, requiring busing of convention goers from far-flung hotels.
On the other hand, Las Vegas officials who pitched the site selection panel on March 21 set aside a portion of their presentation to push back against the “Sin City” image that might prove uncomfortable with conservative elements of the Republican base.
At the same time, some Las Vegas boosters say it might not hurt the Republicans, sometimes derided as the party of “old white guys,” to be associated with a city that markets its association with youth and vibrancy.
Dallas, which is hosting the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament this weekend, also is considered to have a strong case for its experience in hosting major events and also because of the deep pockets of Republican boosters in Texas, a solidly red state. Kansas City also has mounted an aggressive bid.
“We were told that Dallas did a very good job in presenting our pitch and there was a lot of momentum building for Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, chief executive office of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“I certainly think Las Vegas is one of our strongest competitors,” said Jones, nodding as well to Kansas City. “At the end of the day it will be a horse race between Dallas and Vegas, and I like our odds.”
Dallas is said to prefer the Republicans hold their convention in July 2016 as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he will not relinquish the American Airlines Center if his basketball team is in the NBA playoffs that spring. The GOP is seeking six weeks of access to the convention hall.
Jones said Wednesday he understood Las Vegas preferred July dates as well.
Asked if Las Vegas had a preference between proposed June or July convention dates, List said the city is confident it can “accommodate what the RNC wants to see happen.”
“We’ll knock ourselves out to make it work in any month,” List said.
Pressed, List said there are some “challenges in terms of the calendar in terms of having access to the venue for a sufficient time in advance for the potential convention to secure the facility” if the RNC picks June dates. It could take weeks, for example, for the Las Vegas Convention Center to make retrofits to the facility, including building VIP and media suites.
But List said improvements can be built on site or off site and then moved in.
“Those are the issues for any location,” List said. “I’m confident we can make it work in either month.”
Krolicki said the question “is premature. The RNC and their team will come in and we will discuss dates and what would be necessary to meet the obligation of commencing a convention on those dates. That’s a conversation that is yet to be had with the experts.”
“The most I can say is, ‘Go Mavericks!’” List joked.
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