Mayor Sly James talks confidently about Kansas City’s chances to land the 2016 Republican National Convention and to raise the necessary private money to pay for the event.
The city’s pitch for the convention — it’s among four finalist cities now and will learn the GOP’s decision later this summer — has already given Kansas City good publicity, James said.
Should the presidential nominating convention come to town, the mayor said, it will fill hotel rooms and stoke a variety of businesses. It’s estimated to bring 45,000 people to the city, many for nearly a week.
“Hotel rooms will be full. Restaurants will be serving food. People will be driven from place to place. Bars will be serving alcohol,” the mayor said. “It’s a convention that will put us on another stage. … It’s always good to have the entire world looking into your city for five days or so.”
James said the effort shows the city needs more convention-ready hotel rooms, but said that adding an 800-room facility to downtown would be difficult.
“We can always use more hotel rooms. We can use more quality hotel rooms. That’s been a need in the city for quite some times,” the mayor said. “We’re going to expand our hotel stock when and if we have a financing plan that meets the city’s criteria. We don’t want to go into extraordinary debt. … When that deals comes along, we’ll build a new hotel. Until then, we’ll probably keep on looking.”
Money to defray the expenses of the convention would come both from private fundraising and federal grants, for security, that typically flow to a city hosting a national party convention.
Organizers say they’ve already raised commitments of nearly $30 million in cash and in-kind help. The total cost could reach $55 million to $60 million.
If it comes to Kansas City, the convention would take place in the Sprint Arena, sometimes spilling into the Power & Light District. It would likely mean closing off, for security reasons, much of downtown Kansas City before and during the convention.
Kansas City last hosted a national major party convention in 1976, when Republicans nominated Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan to head their ticket.