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Dallas Sees Las Vegas, Kansas City, Denver As Main Competitors For GOP Convention
American Airlines Center would the primary location for a 2016 GOP National Convention in Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says Big D presented a competitive proposal Friday that should make the city a finalist for hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The mayor and retired U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison were among those in Washington D.C. pitching Dallas to the site selection committee.

Rawlings says Dallas hit on all cylinders as it stressed the city’s selling points; ability to provide safety, easy access to and around the city, and plenty of hotels and entertainment spots where convention delegates could kick up their heels.

But most importantly, he said, Dallas guaranteed the site selection committee that Dallas can privately raise the money needed to put on a top flight convention.

“We committed we have $40 million to be able to put against this and if they choose us we could get the other $20 million within a year.  We’ve got a good track record in Dallas of raising funds and I think everybody knows that our word is pretty good,” Rawlings said.

Convention and Visitors’ Bureau President Phillip Jones says Dallas’ track record of hosting big conventions is also a strength. 

“We’re very experienced in hosting major events like super bowls and the upcoming Final Four and the George W. Bush Presidential Library opening.  We have the history of successfully executing those,” he said.

The biggest complication for Dallas- the dates requested by Republican planners.  They’ve asked for exclusive access to convention sites in June and July.  But if the Dallas Mavericks or Stars make the playoffs the American Airlines Center – the primary convention location- would not be available until July 18.

Jones says the selection committee seemed willing to consider that.

“We basically told them honestly we could not accommodate the dates at the American airlines Center in June, but that we could do a phenomenal job of hosting their convention in July of 2016.  We also told them, should the Mavericks or the Stars not be in the playoffs, we could offer them access to the building as early as May 1.

Six other cities are competing for the convention including Cincinnati, Phoenix, and Columbus, Ohio.  Jones says he’s primarily keeping his eye on the other three: Kansas City because it’s spent more than a year in planning; Denver because it successfully hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention; and Las Vegas, which has a massive number of hotel rooms and convention space

“We’re certainly keeping our eye on Las Vegas because they’re always a tough competitor,” said Jones.

But Jones says in Vegas the Republicans would be just one of many conventions.

In Dallas, he says, “they’d own the town.”

Several finalists will be chosen in late spring and a convention site will be announced in the fall. 

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.