A top aide to Kansas City Mayor Sly James says the area has a good chance of hosting the Republican National Convention in 2016.
“We deserve to be in the spotlight. We deserve to step forward and take a bow now and then,” Jason Hodges, a senior adviser to the mayor, said at Thursday’s Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon.
He stressed that the effort is metrowide and the hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits would be, too, from the thousands of hotel rooms that would be filled to the restaurants and retailers that would benefit.
“This effort is a regional effort. It’s a bistate effort,” he said.
The convention would be held at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City sometime from late June through mid-July 2016. Area officials made a presentation to the Republican National Committee earlier this month – Mayor James spontaneously started singing “Kansas City, here I come” from the famous Fats Domino song – and the party could make a selection by late summer.
Hodges said several cities are in the running, and he offered an analysis – sometimes humorous and biting – of each:
• Las Vegas, which hosts many large conventions and hosts them well, he said. But that’s the thing. To Las Vegas, your event is just one more convention, he said.
And there’s the heat of summer.
“I know Vegas says, ‘It’s a dry heat.’ Yeah, so is my oven,” Hodges said.
• Dallas, which has had Super Bowls and Final Fours. “Again ... you are just another (event) to Dallas,” he said.
• Cleveland: “The best time I ever had in Cleveland was leaving for Columbus,” he said.
• Denver, the site of the 2008 Democratic Convention, where President Obama was first nominated.
“It just seems like you don’t want to associate with that one,” he said.
Some of those cities are in key Electoral College states, and that’s often a consideration for parties picking convention sites. In presidential voting, Kansas is reliably Republican and Missouri strongly leans that way. That made Hodges initially highly skeptical about Kansas City’s bid, he said, but he now says the thinks the city has a great chance.
For one thing, “No one throws a party like Kansas City does.”
He said the area has more than 32,000 hotel rooms within a half-hour drive of the Sprint Center and that transportation shouldn’t have the bottlenecks it has had elsewhere. The group promoting the effort is raising money toward the estimated $50 million to $60 million that would be needed, he said.
“We are who they need,” he said.
He also seemed to suggest there’s a certain something about Kansas City that visitors don’t get until they actually come here.
“Most of all, Kansas City has a work ethic and a spirit about it that other cities cannot match,” he said.
The benefits would be enormous, he said.
“It’s not a partisan thing,” he said. “It’s a regional thing.”
He put the economic impact of the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, held at Kauffman Stadium, at $60 million. The GOP convention, he said, would bring in $250 million to $350 million.
Landing the convention also would build on having hosted the baseball and Major League Soccer all-star games.
“We are no longer the flyover city,” he said. “We’re the destination.”
He added, “And we will have one hell of a party in 2016.”