But for the thousands of people in attendance, it will also be about the hotel rooms, the security screenings and the after-hours parties.
On Wednesday, the Washington Examiner talked about that with David Gilbert, a local civic leader and one of the driving forces behind Cleveland’s convention bid.
Examiner: Discuss the backstory behind the city’s convention bid:
Gilbert: Cleveland had bid on the RNC eight years ago and DNC four years ago. It’s been on the community’s radar. No matter how we tried, we weren’t ready as a community eight years ago — for a lot of different reasons. The effort was a consequence of a number of different organizations working together.
Examiner: Why did you feel you were ready this time?
Gilbert: Certainly the infrastructure, the convention center, eight new hotels, other new visitor attractions. From a physical standpoint and an infrastructure standpoint — that was a significant [difference]. There is a new self-confidence by community leaders. That is a lot of what has allowed the community to coalesce around growth over the past four or five years — cooperation between the public sector, the civic sector and the private sector.
Examiner: Much has been mentioned about Cleveland’s revitalized downtown. What about the rest of the city?
Gilbert: Cleveland is a big city and has issues like every big city. Every big city has areas that have more difficulty than others. But it absolutely goes beyond a revitalized downtown. It’s not just downtown, but you’re starting to see numerous neighborhoods growing — we have multiple neighborhoods that are growing. We’re leading nation in restoring properties and demolition and adapt or reuse of properties. The good things that are happening are not just downtown development.
Examiner: OK, let’s talk about the amenities and what kind of convention experience the GOP delegates and journalists can expect.
Gilbert: This was a real strength of us, the walkability of so many of the main venues, a very compact downtown. Quicken Loans Arena is very much in the middle of town. There are 19 hotels downtown, 18 are within a 15-minute walk of the arena, the other one is within a 20-minute walk. The media center — one would be a short walk, the other within a 2.5-minute bus ride in dedicated lanes. There are about 5,000 hotel rooms downtown, enough to accommodate 30 percent of delegates. The others are in pretty good clusters. There are multiple entertainment districts, over 100 restaurants, all right downtown. This will be a very convenient place for the delegates.
Examiner: Was all of this the key to winning the bid?
Gilbert: I think the compactness of so much of the infrastructure really made a difference.
Examiner: In 2012, the GOP convention was held in Tampa, Fla., and the first day was canceled due to a hurricane. What’s the weather like in Cleveland in mid-July?
Gilbert: It’s a beautiful month, the average summer temperatures are in the low 80s; it doesn’t get very humid. We might have rough winters, but very pleasant summers. We’re right on Lake Erie so we get cool breezes off of the lake.
Examiner: How much did politics play a role in winning the 2016 convention, in terms of Ohio’s position as a must-win swing state for the Republicans and their inability to capture it since 2004?
Gilbert: Going into this, the site selection committee, part of their charge was not to think through — was not how having the convention in a state might play into how that state votes, partly because the [GOP] hasn’t won a state where the convention was held since 1992. While politics overall were probably one of [the] decision criteria, it wasn’t a main focus of our bid. Do we think that being [in Ohio] helped? Absolutely. But it really wasn’t a main part of our bid.