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Two of the cities vying to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention, New Orleans and Minneapolis, are proposing to hold the convention in a dome. (Minneapolis is also offering 2 other, non-dome, facilities). Is a dome a plus or minus for a city looking to host a convention?
Only 2 conventions have been held in domes, both by the GOP. New Orleans in '88 and Houston in '92. Domes have both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is the extra seats. I know that in Houston, they draped a curtain across the field, and put the podium in front of the curtain, facing a semi-circle of seats. Depending on where you put the curtain, you could probably keep 50-80% of the seats, easily giving 40,000 to 50,000 seats, way more than an arena can give. Another advantage is that behind the curtain, on the rest of the field, you can put trailers for dressing rooms, or tents for VIP receptions, or let the media use it for workspace.
One disadvantage is that many of the seats will be much farther away than the worst seats in an arena - you have to be careful you don't insult any VIPs or just IPs with bad seats. Also, for the less interesting parts of the convention, you will have lots of empty seats. The networks will try to show them, and the party will try to make sure there's no lighting up there.
Some have also asked whether you could have the first three days in a smaller venue, with the Thursday night speeches in the dome. The problem is it would greatly increase the cost of the convention. The host city/party has to build essentially a huge TV studio for 20,000 people, the networks and media have to do all the wiring to get the news out, and the security teams have to implement two totally different security strategies. To do that in two different venues would be extremely costly.