DALLAS – Dallas moved a step closer Wednesday afternoon to hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention.
After a meeting in Washington, D.C., the RNC’s Site Selection Committee narrowed the finalist cities to only Dallas and Cleveland.
“Cleveland and Dallas demonstrated their ability to host a phenomenal convention in 2016, and the RNC is excited about the prospect of hosting our convention in either of these great cities," said Enid Mickelsen, Chairwoman of the RNC's Site Selection Committee. "After visiting both cities, I can say to my fellow Republicans that we should be excited for the 2016 convention. These world class cities know how to roll out the welcome mat, and more importantly they have the ability to provide our next presidential nominee a launching pad that will put a Republican in the White House in 2016."
Denver and Kansas City had also been vying for the convention and made it to the earlier round.
“The committee extends our sincere thanks and gratitude to Denver and Kansas City for their hard work and dedication to this effort. Both teams should be proud of their work. They were great ambassadors for their cities, and we felt fortunate to visit and get to know them. This was a tough decision for our committee because all four of these cities made excellent bids," Mickelsen added.
The RNC will announce the host city for its 2016 convention on Aug. 8.
Beaming leaders at the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss being named a finalist. They were particularly amazed that Dallas got started pretty late in the process - about four months ago — and managed to make it to the final round.
The Site Selection Committee visited the American Airlines Center earlier this month, where the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau rolled out a highly-produced presentation for the RNC team.
Jim Kirk’s Dallas company, called Corporate Magic, Inc., helped with the Texas-sized presentation - complete with live elephants - for the visiting Republican committee. By all accounts, the event was a smashing success.
“The chairman [of the RNC] told me that Dallas did a phenomenal job; that it was really a slam dunk,” Kirk said.
Kirk's company helped put on the Republican convention in Tampa in 2012, and he said it amounts to much more than just a political pep rally in an arena.
“They’ll have parties and dinners and business meetings. So there’s a lot that goes on around it," he said. "There’s a build-up and a glow afterwards that’s really phenomenal.”
Dallas is widely seen as the favorite for the RNC, since Texas is the largest Republican state and the party would likely want to brag about the so-called “Texas miracle” -- the state’s economic success during the national downturn.
If Dallas is eventually chosen, the convention would take place inside the American Airlines Center on July 18, 2016.
It would be expensive, too.
Dallas would have to raise $60 million from donors to host the national convention. Already, Dallas has more money committed to the convention than any other finalist city.
One donor already committed a million dollars; there are pledges for another $20 million; and the city can get $25 million in sales tax rebates from the state's Major Event Trust Fund, said Chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau Phillip Jones.
Dallas leaders like their chances to compete financially, touting the fact that they have quickly secured pledges for $46 million to put on the event, about three-quarters of the total price tag. And without going into specifics, they revealed Wednesday that they plan to enhance that offering soon.
Jones assures the return on the investment would be enormous.
“If we can land this one for Dallas, it would be a huge coup for the city," he said.
Tax money is not used, organizers said.
The RNC has settled on two dates for the cities to consider: June 27 and July 18.
Dallas is bidding for the GOP's July 18 date to avoid a potential scheduling conflict if the Dallas Mavericks make it to the NBA finals. Cleveland has an advantage in that the city can offer both the June and July dates.
During the visit to Dallas, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said he would prefer the June date, but each city had something different to offer.
Republicans want to hold their convention earlier this election cycle to give the nominee more time to raise money for the general election.
Another aspect to consider, Cleveland is in a swing state. Convention and Visitors Bureau President Jones said that doesn't worry him too much.
"I think they have tried that strategy the last three or four times and it hasn’t worked so well, and our position has been to play from your strengths," he said. "We’re the reddest of red states in Texas. Why wouldn’t you want to launch your candidate and campaign from Texas?”
Dallas last hosted a national convention in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was nominated for a second term.
The committee says it still has questions for Cleveland and will have to visit again, while officials said they don't see a need to return to Dallas.
The convention could bring in $250 million to the Dallas economy and would book up 96,000 hotel room nights, if the city is chosen.
“It affects the whole community," Kirk said.