Cincinnati picked to move forward with bid for 2016 Republican National Convention

CINCINNATI -- The Queen City is one of only six cities still in the running to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

But now it's the job of those in charge of selling Cincinnati to make it appear as though it's an obvious top choice.

The political organization announced Wednesday that its Site Selection Committee (SSC) picked Cincinnati along with Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Cleveland to move forward in the bidding war.

"A few hours ago we got the very good news that Cincinnati made it to the next round for the Republican National Convention in 2016. It was clearly a group effort and I've been assured by Mayor (John) Cranley that if we go all the way, he's going to convert to Republicanism," joked John Barrett, group chairman of the committee to bring the RNC to the Queen City.

Barrett, chairman of the board at Western & Southern Financial Group, was joined by Cranley, Republican Party leaders and several City Councilmembers at a Wednesday afternoon press conference outside City Hall to discuss the decision made by the GOP brass.

SSC chair Enid Mickelsen described whittling down the list of would-be hosts as a "painstaking review" process for him and his small staff of committee members.

Two of those three cities are in Ohio, as both Cincinnati and Cleveland made the cut. Columbus, which advanced into the Elite Eight, joined Phoenix as the two cities eliminated from contention on Wednesday.

Mickelsen said the fact those cities weren't selected is more a testament to the strength of the other contenders than an indication of the shortcomings of either Columbus or Phoenix.

"In any other year, Columbus and Phoenix could have topped the list, but with so many strong cities competing, the committee had to make the difficult decision to narrow the field," he said, referring to discarded contenders as "great American cities."

Now, it's time for the remaining half-dozen cities to prove they have what it takes to merit the national spotlight in June 2016.

"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," Mickelsen said.

While those onlooking eyes will be attention to the city, the committee in charge of luring the GOP to the banks of the Ohio River is more worried about getting feet (and wallets) into area hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

Republican delegates and representatives from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas and Puerto Rico will descend on the host city to officially nominate the Republican Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Barrett said landing the convention will bring somewhere between 50,000 to 60,000 people and stimulate the local economy with a conservative estimate of $150 million.

"You know, when you have 50,000 to 60,000 people come to your area, that's an awful lot of food, an awful lot of entertainment, an awful lot of walking around. You want to be able to present all the things that make all the delegates happy," he said. 

"Fully, three-quarters of the people who come actually don't go into the arena, so we want them to have the best possible experience. That's what these guys are all so good at."

In 2012, Tampa Bay, Fla., had about $214 million in direct spending brought into its economy thanks to the convention, according to the city's host committee.

"We want these dollars. We want this investment and we are excited as all can be that we are a finalist for this convention and we will do everything we can to convince the national Republican Party to pick Cincinnati for their convention," Cranley said.

However, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and landing a political convention is no different.

Cincinnati's host committee has to find a way to raise $50 million in order to prove to the SSC they have the funds needed to put on the event.

As of March 21, when Barrett and other local Republican and local leaders made their pitch in Washington, D.C., the Cincinnati Host Committee had raised $15 million without event soliciting funds, he told WCPO while in the nation's capital.

Barrett indicated money isn't a problem, but the RNC demands more than deep pockets when it comes to picking the kickoff party to the presidential campaign season.

Now that the field is narrowed, the SSC will send a team to the cities to do more in-depth investigation and look at “financing, convention venues, media workspace, and hotels.”

Cranley thinks the city will represent itself well in those categories.

"We have an amazing revitalization, resurgence and by next summer when we have the (MLB) All-Star Game our riverfront park will be just about completely finished and certainly by the summer of 2016 it will be finished," he said. "This city will shine."

While money might not be an issue, infrastructure could be. Although the city has several short-term housing and hotel

projects in the works and a plethora of eateries, the city is without a modern mega-arena or the convention spaces of the other major cities on the list.

U.S. Bank Arena, which can house just over 17,000 for a standard concert, hasn't undergone a major renovation since the $14 million facelift the 41-year-old building received in 1997.

According to Barrett, the group behind the arena, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), is on the Cincinnati host committee and has stated it's willing to come up with the funds needed to upgrade the space.

Also, while some consider Cincinnati to be a small big city, Barrett sees the Tri-State as having all the necessary bells and whistles, just on a more "compact," "very walkable" scale.

"Our city's on fire. The word is getting out about what a great place this is. And, the people that we met in Washington -- I think it was a committee of maybe 20 -- they heard the word," Barrett said, adding that landing would be good for the neighboring Tri-State entertainment districts like Newport and Covington.

Republican officials said an announcement on which cities will get official site visits from the committee will be made after the group’s spring meeting in mid-May. The official site visits would be made in late May or early June.

Initial negotiations between the political party and any remaining cities is planned for the three-month period between June and August. 

The final vote will take place in late summer or early fall.

RELATED: Cincinnati Republican leaders on 2016 RNC bid: 'We know we got it'
MORE: Host committee: You have to want it 'awfully bad'

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