Cover Story: Roadblocks for 2012 Convention

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Democrats are in town taking a closer look at Charlotte.  They're trying to decide if the Queen City is ready to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Representatives are looking at three things among others: The venue - Time Warner Cable Arena; our hotel space;  and how the city would handle security for the whole event.

There are some roadblocks for Charlotte (any host city) to overcome.

As tempting as it is to host a national political convention, there is a hefty price to pay.  Some decide it's not worth it.

Two roadblocks for Charlotte:  Can the city raise the cash and secondly does Charlotte fit into the Democrats' plan?

Look around town Tuesday and you can't help noticing the city's put a spit-shine on itself.  Representatives from the DNC are in town and a news blackout's in place.

Politicians who aren't normally quiet are.

We asked Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx to tell us what's going on.  He said, "There's going to be a press available Wednesday.. so we'll talk about it then."

What local leaders have said is that it's going to cost upwards of $40 million - money the host city's organizing committee will have to raise to host the convention.

But we learned they're underestimating it by a long shot.  Not $40 million, it could be more like $100 million.

Two years ago, Denver, Colorado for example had to come up with about $80 million.

"That's the beauty of it to the Democratic Party," said Chuck Plunkett of the Denver Post.  "The host committee is responsible for funding the convention."

In other words whichever city in the final four that's selected (Charlotte, St. Louis, Cleveland, Minneapolis) bears the cost of throwing the party for the Democratic Party.

And it can be stressful coming up with cash.

Chuck Plunkett was the Denver Post's point man on all things DNC.  He covered the story for a year and a half leading up to Denver's August 2008 convention.

"For a long time the money just wasn't there," said Plunkett.  "It kept looking like Denver wasn't going to be able to make good on its promise."

"I think we have a great chance," said Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg county commission.

Local leaders have said if we get the bid raising money shouldn't be a problem.  The host committee will be seeking donations from all across the country.

What does the money go for?  Things like retrofitting the venue, turning the Uptown Arena into a Convention Hall; hotels and travel for the DNC; and some for security.  Although in Denver's case the feds wrote a check for $50 million.  That's on top of the money the city had to raise.

At world gatherings these days protesters come out of the woodwork.

Those who've hosted past conventions say the week of the convention your city is turned into a police state.

Another roadblock to overcome does Charlotte help attract national voters?  The DNC chose Denver to deliver the Rocky Mountain west and it worked.

Plunkett said leading members of the party told him, "They kind of tired of the days of always doing it in New York or in Los Angeles.  A bustling up and coming popular place like Charlotte would fit right in with that model."

Philadelphia decided it wasn't worth the cost and the hassle pursuing the Democratic convention.  They dropped out months ago.

If Charlotte lands the convention organizers say they'll be going to corporations and individuals for donations, they don't plan to use tax dollars.

A decision on where the Democrats will hold their convention is expected by the end of the year.

The Republicans have already picked Tampa, Florida for their convention in 2012.

Copyright 2010 WBTV. All rights reserved.