Monday, May 01, 2006

More on San Antonio decision

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

I posted last week that San Antonio dropped its bids to host the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions. There's more on the decision today from the San Antonio Business Journal:

[San Antonio Mayor Phil] Hardberger was initially excited that San Antonio could land one of the political conventions. But that excitement has waned in recent weeks when it became more clear that the numbers weren't adding up. "I've written a letter to both (political parties) declining," Hardberger says. "I've left the door open for future consideration in case another mayor down the road feels differently than I do."

Michael Sawaya, director of convention facilities for the city of San Antonio, is not surprised by Hardberger's move. Even though a national political convention would likely utilize Sawaya's facilities, he says the payback for hosting these events isn't what it used to be.

There are other concerns, according to Sawaya. "With the size of our convention center and the demand we have, it would be tough taking it off the market for too long without it having a negative impact on the community," Sawaya notes.


Hardberger says the Republicans were seeking at least $40 million worth of public and/or private support from potential host cities. The Democrats, he says, were asking for at least $35 million. "When you look at the dollars involved and what you get in return, it just made sense to pass," Hardberger explains.

Other factors weighed in Hardberger's decision. One, he explains, is that these political conventions, despite their mammoth size, simply are not the hot ticket they once were. "They are not the greatest shows on earth that they used to be," Hardberger says. "They just don't have the punch anymore."


Critics have pointed to Boston -- which hosted the 2004 Democratic National Convention -- as a case study in how these political conventions do not provide the payoff for a community they perhaps once did. Cities are taking notice of how the convention played in that city.

Fred Sainz, a former director of convention planning for the Republican Party, negotiated the deal to take the 1996 Republican National Convention to San Diego.... Sainz says any city that expects to benefit from a windfall of positive national media exposure as a result of hosting one of the national political conventions is likely in for a big disappointment.

"Cities are no longer promised the positive press. It's not like that anymore," Sainz notes.

By 2016 or 2020 I don't think any city is going to want to bid for the convention. But that's a topic for another blog at another time.