Washington —The final sprint to the U.S. presidential election begins when the two major political parties throw two major parties: the Republican and the Democratic national conventions.
When Republicans gather in Tampa, Florida, the week of August 27 and Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina, the week of September 3, each party will rally around its nominee in the final run-up to the November election. But what do the conventions mean for the cities that host them?
Cities vying for the conventions have to balance the benefits of national attention and increased tourist revenue against the logistical challenge presented by transport, lodging and security for the vast influx of people concentrated in a relatively small area around the event.
As is the case for a party’s nominee, the hardest work began after Charlotte and Tampa won the bidding to host the 2012 conventions.
Congress appropriates $50 million to each hosting city for security costs. The convention’s organizers work with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to plan crowd management and transportation logistics. Tampa officials plan to have 3,000 to 4,000 police officers on duty each day of the convention. Since this is more than double the city’s standing police force, much of the federal money goes to hiring police from other areas.
But the hosting cities must also raise money for necessary improvements. Organizers in Charlotte will have to raise $50 million to upgrade the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first three days of the convention will take place, and for other improvements. The political parties pay close attention to fundraising capacity before choosing a host city.
In Tampa, hotel managers are keeping on employees for the summer, a slow time during which they usually reduce staff. Republican convention organizers have reserved 16,000 rooms at about 100 area hotels. The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay has launched a $16 million pre-convention renovation. "We're absolutely hoping this will translate into future business," manager Paul Joseph told the Tampa Tribune.
The Democratic National Convention, held in Denver in 2008, brought that city an estimated $160 million and 50,000 visitors. Similarly, the Republicans’ 2008 convention in Minneapolis–St. Paul brought $170 million and 45,000 visitors to the area, with hotel occupancy rising 45 percent from the previous year. "There's no doubt that putting on an event of this magnitude put us on the map,” said Mayor Gene Winstead of nearby Bloomington, Minnesota, said in September 2009, “and we know that our community will reap the benefits of hosting the convention for years to come."