by Valerie Verkamp
On the cusp of sending out the final proposal, Jon Stephens, the president and CEO of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, expressed great enthusiasm for Kansas City's ability to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Stephens indicated that Kansas City has met all of the Republican National Committee's requirements, including available hotel rooms and convention space to the transportation infrastructure and fundraising efforts.
“Based on everything we've seen on their RFP (request for proposal), we are confident that we've already exceeded every requirement of the bid,” said Stephens.
When questioned about the recent scramble to acquire an additional 1,000 available hotel rooms, he said, “With almost 33,000 hotel rooms in Kansas City, the concern was really more about putting together the best package of hotel room clusters given their proximity to the event.”
At this point, final efforts are being spent on pulling together the “best package” for the RNC and its attendees, he added.
This wouldn't be the first time Kansas City has offered up its Midwestern hospitality. In 2012, Kansas City hosted the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. The city has also hosted the NCAA men's basketball tournament and conventions for Cerner, ETS, and Skills USA.
“We are very experienced in the coordination of transportation, logistics, and, of course, most importantly hosting—putting great hospitality on display when tens of thousands of visitors come to our city,” said Stephens.
Yet, some question whether Kansas City has the necessary transportation infrastructure to host an event of this scale.
“My concern is the proximity that the attendees would have to travel, because our hotels are so spread out,” said Jennifer Goering, executive director of the Platte County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I think it is going to be up to this committee to really swing it—how are we going to get all of these attendees from all of these spread out hotels down to the Sprint Center,” said Goering.
Stephens admits that the preplanning of a transportation system is very complex, but says Kansas City's more fluid highway system will serve as a strength.
“The way Kansas City is lined with the highway system and with where the Convention Center and the Sprint Center are located, it is actually one of the least congested cities in America,” he said. “The transportation plan for getting people to and from their hotels, attractions, and destinations is actually a very big positive as we look at our bid for the RNC.”
If the event is held in Kansas City, delegates and credentialed attendees will receive complimentary transportation.
For all the effort and preplanning, Stephens said the economic benefit from hosting this event would be exceedingly rewarding.
The average overnight business traveler in Kansas City spends $249 per day. Stephens expects that figure to be slightly greater due to the mass scale and scope of the RNC event. It is estimated the event would bring in more than $250 million in new spending.
“I think most importantly for the community, it's not only the actual convention attendees, but it is all of the media and all of the support personnel—it's thousands and thousands of additional people attending here. Also, it is just such a great opportunity for us to showcase the city to the world with an event like this that will garner so much attention.”
Goering agrees and says she “applauds the city for trying to work together” on this bid.
“In 2008, the convention in Minneapolis brought in $170 million in new spending,” said Goering. “In 2012, the convention in Tampa resulted in $214 million in new spending.”
Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, and Columbus are among the cities competing against Kansas City for the right to host the 2016 presidential convention. Each city offers unique selling points.
Kansas City's Pitch
Stephens did not identify which city will serve as Kansas City's biggest competitor. He said the focus isn't on competing cities, but rather showcasing Kansas City and presenting the best persuasive pitch.
“We are centrally located,” said Stephens. “We are an all-star city that is ready and experienced in hosting major events. We have one of the world's leading arenas with a revitalized downtown area surrounding it that is exciting and energetic. Additionally, we are a city that builds hospitality around our conventions. This city and the metropolitan area has a hospitality that we feel is unlike any other city and we think that attendees for the 2016 RNC will feel incredibly welcome.”
Following the RNC event, the Convention and Visitors Association predicts that visitors will return for another visit based upon their experience.
“We're American's creative crossroads,” said Stephens. “The investments made in our city from the Kansas City Zoo to the World War I Museum to the Plaza and Zona Rosa, there are so many attractions in Kansas City for individuals, families, and guest of really every type. We see it all the time with convention goers. They are just absolutely excited and shocked with the diversity of attractions and entertainment options when they come to Kansas City.”
Private sector dollars
There is no set dollar amount, but agents of the Convention and Visitors Association are optimistic the city will raise significant dollars needed to attract the RNC.
“We feel that we are well positioned to raise the private sector dollars to successfully host the convention,” said Stephens. “One thing to remember is that it is local and national dollars. It is money that comes from in the community and outside the community. So we feel very confident of where we stand with financial contributions.”
He pointed out there will be an “incredible return on investments from hosting” the major convention held in June of 2016.
The Republican National Committee will announce which city they have selected sometime this summer.