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Kansas City prepares response to Republican requirements for 2016 convention

Updated: 2013-12-12T05:00:16Z

By DAVE HELLING

The Kansas City Star

Eighteen thousand arena seats. Sixteen thousand first-class hotel rooms. Three hundred fifty air-conditioned buses. Five thousand volunteers.

Those requirements — and scores of others — are included in a document recently sent to Kansas City, and more than a dozen other cities, as part of the bid process for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The 29-page document, called a request for proposal, establishes the minimum framework cities should meet to host the party’s gathering. It was provided to The Star after a Sunshine Law request.

It includes everything from security and transportation standards to the need for water and daily janitorial service during the convention. Interested cities must provide the GOP with a budget, proof of insurance, letters from unions promising not to walk off the job — and a list of coffee shops and 24-hour restaurants.

Kansas City convention officials say the to-do list is long but not impossible to meet.

“There was nothing really surprising in it,” said Jon Stephens, head of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. “It’s one of the most significant events in the country every four years … and the (request for proposal) certainly reflects that.”

The proposal request does not include any specific local spending requirements. Instead, bidding cities are instructed to prepare a budget and a timetable for raising money for the convention.

But virtually everything the host city must provide — from arena space to electricity to specialized construction and office space — must be provided free of charge to the party.

Hotel rooms won’t be free, but meeting space in hotels must be.

That means financial support from a combination of private donors and potentially taxpayers. Early estimates suggest the host city could face a bill of $50 million or more, and the winning city must promise to raise all of it by early 2016.

Mayor Sly James, who received the request for proposal from the Republican Party, declined to comment Wednesday.

A special committee is working on the Kansas City area’s formal response, which isn’t due until late February.

There are other potential hurdles:

• The Republicans’ proposal request requires 18,000 convention seats — 15,500 in the arena bowl and 2,500 on the floor. The floor seats must be upholstered and should lock together, the document says, and the aisles must have new carpet.

But room also must be provided for print and broadcast reporters, the podium, sky boxes, a camera stand and other personnel. The Sprint Center’s capacity is listed at roughly 19,000 seats, potentially making the convention a tight fit.

The arena will have enough room, Stephens said. He would not say whether the city’s bid will include a convention session at Sporting Park in western Wyandotte County, as has been discussed.

• The host city must guarantee 16,000 “first class” hotel rooms, plus 1,000 one- or two-bedroom suites. The request for proposal doesn’t say how close those rooms must be to the convention hall, but it instructs bidding cities to provide travel times from hotels to the arena, as well as “transportation services, including regular bus service, rail service and taxi and limousine services.”

The proposal request says 350 air-conditioned buses will be needed to transport delegates and alternates to and from convention hotels. Almost all will be large-sized transport buses, used for interstate travel, and in Kansas City they’ll have to be brought in.

The area has more than 30,000 hotel rooms, Stephens said, although not all are considered first class.

• By the convention’s starting date, the host city must provide 2,000 parking spaces, and a place for 300 buses, near the convention arena. Those lots must be secured and lit “at the sole cost” of the host city.

The news media will need 250,000 to 350,000 square feet of workspace — and parking is needed for satellite trucks, trailers and offices, all within reasonable walking distance.

Stephens said space can be found to accommodate those needs. The media workspace, for example, could be established at Bartle Hall.

While parking, transportation and housing are significant challenges, other standards in the request for proposal may be easier to meet.

Restrooms must be cleaned daily. A medical response plan is required. Cities must explain how they’ll pay for security if the federal government fails to provide money for that purpose.

The party will select food and beverage items inside the hall, and who gets to serve them. There are requirements for special lighting, extra electricity, a sound system and telecommunications equipment.

The successful host city must also provide at least 5,000 volunteers and a person whose only job is to supervise them.

The proposal request concludes with a 47-point checklist of information the potential host must provide, from parks available for rallies to staff housing that must be open 16 months before the convention.

Oh, and another thing: The request for proposal doesn’t set a date for the gathering. Cities must guess what facilities will be needed, and when.

More than a dozen other communities are considering a response to the proposal request, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City.

Cities need not meet every requirement in the request for proposal to land the convention, but must explain — in their response — why they’ve fallen short. Cities can, of course, provide additional amenities and facilities, and most are expected to do so.

And the final choice of a host city isn’t completely related to the ability to meet the party’s technical requirements. Politics is involved, too.

A GOP site selection committee is expected to narrow the convention choices next spring, with a final decision in mid-2014.

Stephens says the area remains committed to landing the convention, which could provide millions in economic stimulus to the region.

“Kansas City rallies around great events like this,” he said. “Regardless of any politics.”

What the GOP wants, what Kansas City has

Arena

GOP wants:

18,000 seats, plus space for podium, offices, sky boxes, media, etc.

KC has:

19,000+ seating capacity, including floor, in Sprint Center

Competitors include:

Salt Lake City’s Energy Solutions Arena, 22,000; Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, 20,500

Hotel rooms

GOP wants:

16,000 first-class rooms, plus 1,000 suites

KC area has:

30,000+ rooms

Competitors include:

Denver, 42,000; Columbus, Ohio, 21,000

Transportation

GOP wants:

Transportation between arena and hotels

KC has:

Buses, taxis, limousines, projected streetcar in downtown loop

Competitors include:

New Orleans, with buses, taxis, limousines, existing streetcars; Phoenix, with buses, taxis, light-rail

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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