Sunday, February 25, 2007

Denver hoping for a green convention

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Denver has always had a image as environmentally friendly, and they're hoping to continue that image with the 2008 Democratic Convention:

Mayor John Hickenlooper's senior adviser Katherine Archuleta said Friday the Host Committee will talk with Xcel Energy about using clean electricity, such as wind-generated power, as well as looking at alternative methods of transportation for delegates and using recyclable materials.
Alternative methods of transportation? Bicycles? Sailboats? I'm just not getting this one.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Denver introduces Host Committee head

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Mike Dino is the new chief executive of the Democratic National Convention's Host Committee:

"Our first task really is raising [$35 million] and building the foundation to be able to host the best event that Denver has ever seen," Dino said. "It's a big task, everybody knows this is the biggest thing to come to Denver in a heck of a long time."
Dino served as executive director of the 1997 Summit of the Eight task force, managing a $4 million budget and activities for the meeting of leaders of industrialized nations. He also advised Webb on the completion of Denver International Airport, which opened in 1995.
Aside from raising the money, Dino said his other focus will be ensuring that the city and the Rocky Mountain region benefit from hosting the convention, both economically and through increased visibility.

"One of our big goals is to make sure that the city comes off shining as brightly as possible and the community feels proud off the effort that was put forth and the result that came about from hosting the convention, and that people who wanted to be a part of it were a part of it," he said. "A big part of our task is that we put a good plan in place that showcases the city as brightly as possible."

Dino was part of the effort to lure the Democratic convention to Denver in 2000, but said the timing wasn't right. Since then, the city has added hotel space and proven that the Pepsi Center is capable of hosting large events such as the convention.

"It's going to be the best convention they've ever had in their life," said Host Committee president and Denver Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth. "We have the best infrastructure, the best bid and more importantly we have wonderful people."
They've raised $23 million in pledges so far, but have a ways to go.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pepsi Center to get $15 million makeover

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As with any convention hall, Denver's Pepsi Center will undergo some major construction to get it ready to host the 2008 Democratic Convention:

In preparation for the Democratic National Convention, they'll likely yank out lower-level seats, knock down luxury suite walls, haul in massive amounts of steel to reinforce the ceiling, erect a huge building in a parking lot to accommodate the media, and bring in new technology and miles of wire and cable.

Then, once the spectacle is over, the presidential hopeful has left the building and Denver's time in the international spotlight is up, they'll swiftly restore the home of the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche to the way it was before. All in 10 weeks. The estimated cost: at least $15 million.
The time-consuming process is already in motion, however, and the Pepsi Center can expect to make many changes that the Boston site underwent in 2004. "The NBA All-Star Game probably was the largest thing we've had, from space to logistics to all the moving parts, and this is 10 times that," [Pepsi Center vice president and general manager of arena operations Dave] Jolette said.

The work will begin in early July 2008 and will finish in mid-September. The convention is set for Aug. 25 to Aug. 28 and could draw 35,000 guests to the region. The timing is good. Kroenke's Nuggets and Avalanche, as well as his Colorado Mammoth lacrosse club, will have finished their seasons by then.

The construction still will have a disruptive effect. The Pepsi Center will not be able to host any other events, like concerts or religious gatherings, over that span. But Kroenke Sports Enterprises will be able to maintain its offices for hundreds of employees, and its billionaire owner will not have to worry about drilling or dust in his penthouse atop the arena.
Workers also will have to alter the arena to provide at least 50 production and staff offices, 20,000 square feet for candidate offices, 5,000 square feet for space used by police, Secret Service and other security, "holding rooms," and makeup and dressing rooms, among other areas, according to a document outlining the Democrats' convention expectations.

A 220,000-square-foot edifice, with everything from air conditioning to carpets, will be set up beside the Pepsi Center to handle the 15,000 media members expected to arrive en masse.

If Mr. Jolette thinks the convention is only 10 times the work of hosting an NBA All-Star game, then he doesn't know his job very well. He has some time to learn, but he better get going.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Convention helps to cancel car race

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Convention preparations require full and exclusive access to the arena for 6-8 weeks before the actual convention, so any previously scheduled events have to be canceled. One casualty of the 2008 Democratic Convention: the Grand Prix of Denver:

The Champ Car World Series on Thursday removed the Grand Prix of Denver from its schedule, ending a five-year run of the street race around the Pepsi Center. The event had been scheduled for Aug. 19. "It's a tough event for the city to lose, and especially hard for race fans," Pepsi Center spokesman Brian Kitts said. "They had a couple of good runs, and it's always tough to lose a marquee event like that."
The Grand Prix has been in trouble for about a year, since race co-owner Bob Sutton, then CEO of Centennial-based Centrix Financial, withdrew as a local promoter of the event because of business problems. Centrix also bailed out as title sponsor. Champ Car ran the race last summer without a title sponsor, and was unable to find a replacement for this year. In a release, Champ Car cited date conflicts for this year's race, but Kitts said the race had already been booked. Pepsi Center officials, however, informed Champ Car that the 2008 date needed to be changed because of the Democratic National Convention. Champ Car said there would be no Denver race in 2008.

"We were in the process of identifying existing Champ Car promoters to step in and run the event or work with someone else," Champ Car spokesman Eric Mauk wrote in an e-mail. "With the 2008 date unquestionably being taken away from us by the convention, it was proving difficult for someone to be enthusiastic to come in and do the race for one year."

A political convention is a behemoth, and there will be other casualties in the future.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How much money will the convention bring Denver?

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Whether a political convention is a plus or minus on the local economy is always a subject for debate, and goes to the heart of whether cities are going to bid for future conventions. Past conventions have been a boon for hotels and caterers, but local businesses near a convention arena often see a loss of business. What is Denver expecting?

Denver officials, who went all out to win the four-day convention, hope it will deliver as much as $200 million in economic benefits. But some economists think real world dollars will be much lower.

National political conventions aren't always the economic boons local officials anticipate, economists said. For one thing, higher security costs in the post-9/11 era detract from bottom-line benefits. Also, increased traffic congestion, protests and other disruptions often lead local residents to avoid businesses near convention sites, offsetting some profits.

As a rule, economists like to take economic predictions by local boosters and move the decimal point one slot to the left. That would put the net value of Denver's convention closer to $20 million. "If a city does in fact do well with a political convention, it's just dumb luck," said University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson, who studies large-scale events. "They rolled the dice. It wasn't careful planning."

Local economic development officials envision hotels and restaurants packed with thousands of delegates, plus more tourists and subsequent business gatherings that they say the exposure of a national political convention will draw long after the delegates go home.
In Boston, security measures closed miles of highways, disrupted rail service and included random bag checks on subways. Customers stayed away from many businesses near the convention center, and some stores and restaurants closed or reduced hours of operation. Halftime Pizza across the street from the FleetCenter, where the convention was held, closed for the week after security fences and other restrictions made the area difficult to access. A sign was posted outside that said, "Say!!!!! D.N.C. Thanks for Nothing!!! Go Bush."

"Even the businesses that stayed open really didn't do that much at all," said the restaurant's manager, Derick Mains. City officials estimated a net gain of $163.3 million in both direct and indirect benefits as a result of the convention. But the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, a public policy think tank, calculated a much lower gain -- $14.8 million. The difference stems from a disagreement over costs associated with events that were canceled because of the convention, such as a parade of tall sailing ships.
For a city like Denver, which is looking to make a name for itself, Denver will be happy if they just break even. But as I've said, the economic equations may have to change in 2012 or the DNC (and RNC) may not have any cities bidding for the 2012 convention.

Monday, February 05, 2007

New CEO for Denver Host Committee

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More news on Denver's Host Committee's reorganization:

Two sources familiar with the selection process say that lobbyist and longtime Democratic activist Mike Dino has been selected to become chief executive officer of the Denver host committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. An announcement is expected soon, the sources said.

Dino is a veteran of Colorado Democratic politics. He ran Wellington Webb's upstart 1991 campaign for mayor. As a senior aide to Webb, he organized the Denver Summit of the Eight gathering of world leaders in 1997, and also worked on the opening of Denver International Airport and the redevelopment of the Lowry Air Force Base.

Willhite out, Dino in.

Update: And now it's official:

Mike Dino, a lobbyist and senior policy adviser for the Patton Boggs LLP law firm, was chosen executive director of the host committee, which is retooling after landing the convention last month.

Debbie Willhite, who was executive director while the committee worked to bring the convention to Denver, said last week she planned to leave to make room for a "heavy-duty" fundraiser.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Denver reorganizes convention preparations

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In a somewhat controversial move, Denver has formed a new committee to continue preparations for hosting the 2008 Democratic Convention:

An executive committee has been appointed to oversee preparations for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, leaving some members of the original organizing group unsure of their role in planning for the event. Katherine Archuleta, senior adviser for policy and initiatives to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, confirmed Monday that the city's highest Democratic elected officials have been named to an "executive committee" for the convention.

The new group is made up of the mayor, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Gov. Bill Ritter, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth - the president of Denver's host committee - and fund-raiser Steve Farber, who was a co-chairman of the host committee.

Archuleta said the group will "take a look at how you implement the bid that was successfully won. "First and foremost is the fundraising. That is the one thing that is on their minds right now because we need to get that money in."

Which leaves Debbie Willhite out of the loop:
"I am not a heavy-duty fundraiser," said Debbie Willhite, executive director of the Denver Host Committee, which led the effort to land the convention. "For the next year, job number one is raising the money," she said.
Wedgeworth said the Host Committee had done its job by landing the convention, and now the new committee will lead some of the same volunteers. "We're just basically evolving to the next phase of this process," Wedgeworth said. "I do think every member of the original steering committee would move heaven and earth to make this event a success," she said.

Other members of the new committee include Sen. Ken Salazar, Rep. Diana DeGette, Gov. Bill Ritter and Mayor John Hickenlooper. Willhite said she would be willing to stay on in some capacity. One of the committee's first tasks will be to hire a director. Neither Wedgeworth nor Hickenlooper adviser Katherine Archuleta would speculate on who that might be.

While this could easily have gone on in the past, I'm not aware of Host Committees being "disbanded" like this. Once the fundraising is over, will they reorganize again to provide all the host city functions that are needed during the convention itself?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Progressive bloggers get organized for convention

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Plans are in the works to get bloggers and other progressives organized for the 2008 Democratic Convention:

ProgressNowAction and America’s top progressive blogger—Markos Moulitsas, founder of teamed up to convene ProgressCon2008, a national convening of bloggers, internet organizers and non-profit leaders during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 25-28, 2008.

“The Convention is coming to our hometown of Denver and we're teaming up with Markos to host our friends in the progressive community in style,” stated Bobby Clark, Deputy Director of ProgressNowAction, Colorado’s largest online progressive organization.