Friday, April 14, 2006

Orlando very worried about costs

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

News has come out which is sure to put a damper on Orlando's reception at the DNC Spring meeting in New Orleans next week. The Orlando Sentinel reported today that Orlando may pull their bid due to the high costs of hosting the 2008 Democratic Convention. Some key details from the article:

The cost of hosting a national political convention in 2008 is so astronomical that Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer may pass on the chance, officials said Wednesday. The mayors learned Wednesday that their already high estimates of about $78 million to put on a four-day convention weren't nearly high enough. The total could actually well surpass $100 million.

Among the expenses: building a 15,000-seat arena, complete with skyboxes, inside the Orange County Convention Center -- then tearing it down after the politicos leave town. Estimated cost: $15 million. And that's just to start. "That's $15 million for four days of use," Crotty said. "There's no final answer yet, but the hill turns out to be a little bit steeper of a climb than we first thought."
Orlando was already at a big disadvantage as they were proposing the Orlando Convention Center as the facility to begin with. I wrote back in February:
If Orlando is offering the Orange County Convention Center as the venue, they're going to have a problem with the Democratic bid. The DNC has clearly stated that they require a "bowl arena with seating for 25,000". The Democrats haven't been in a "convention hall" setting since San Francisco in 1984, and they don't want to go back. There's less seating, bad sightlines for any far-away seats, and no existing skyboxes to entertain the VIPs.
I didn't even mention the additional cost of putting an "arena" inside a convention center. Back to the Sentinel article:
Crotty's chief of staff and others on a local GOP planning committee attended a workshop Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where Republican organizers briefed potential host cities about their needs.

Both parties have a long list of requirements, including enough hotel rooms and convention space to accommodate more than 35,000 party delegates and political and business heavyweights, along with thousands of reporters from around the globe.

Crotty's staffers were told that GOP officials would want both of the Orange County Convention Center's buildings, torpedoing the possibility of hosting trade groups and other conventions in one building at the same time.

Crotty's staffers were told that GOP officials would want both of the Orange County Convention Center's buildings, torpedoing the possibility of hosting trade groups and other conventions in one building at the same time.
I'm sure the Democrats would want the same.
Both parties want access to the center for about three months for setup. The convention center schedules events 10 years or more in advance, and canceling shows that have already been booked would be a huge loss, center deputy manager Kathleen Canning said.

"We certainly could not take both buildings out of commission for that length of time. You're talking about an economic loss of a couple hundred million dollars," Canning said.
This should have been obvious to the Orlando people before they even expressed interest. Every convention in recent history has required 10-12 weeks exclusive access, and all adjacent space gets sucked up by the media requirements (not to mention security considerations would never allow a public event adjacent to a convention site).
The mayors must decide whether to pursue either convention by mid-May, the deadline for bidding. Crotty is expecting a recommendation from his local GOP committee next week, and Dyer said he's gathering input from Democratic bigwigs on the state and national level.

If they abandon the effort, it wouldn't be the first time for Orlando. Crotty and then-Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood ruled out hosting the 2004 conventions after being invited to apply, citing the cost.

A convention would require extensive private fundraising, and the effort would come as Crotty and Dyer are pushing other initiatives that could also hinge on private donations, including a new performing-arts center and attracting the Burnham Institute, a California biomedical firm.

"We're talking about a four-day event that would get national and international attention, but that would cost us $100 million or more," Dyer said. "One question that needs to be explored is whether we would be better off utilizing that money in other ways."
I'm looking forward to see how Orlando's party at the DNC meeting goes!