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DALLAS -- The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau rolled out the red carpet for the Republican National Committee late Thursday morning.

A band, cheerleaders, even two live elephants, the Republican mascot, welcomed the 13-member site selection team to Victory Park and the American Airlines Center.

'I didn't wake up this morning thinking I was going to pet a couple elephants on the way in to the arena. But that was certainly a nice touch,' said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Dallas is competing against Cleveland, Denver and Kansas City to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Priebus jokingly said the only concern he has about Dallas right now is the heat. But that clearly wasn't an issue Thursday morning. In fact, light rain dissipated as the event began.

'It's a great city. It's big. It plays big,' he added. 'Everything has just been Class A here.'

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 18th date to avoid a potential scheduling conflict if the Mavs make it to the NBA finals.

Priebus said he would prefer the June date, but each city had something different to offer.

Republicans want to hold their convention earlier this year to give the nominee more time to raise money for the general election.

Hosting a convention is an expensive proposition said Enid Mickelson, chairwoman with the RNC's site selection committee.

Federal grants pay for some of it. The party picks up another portion of the tab, but the host city is also responsible for millions as well, Mickelson explained.

Dallas would be responsible for about $60 million. One donor committed a million dollars already; 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. Still, that leaves another $15 million organizers would have to raise locally.

No tax money would be spent, said former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is leading the City's effort for the convention, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings.

The site selection team gave Dallas a standing ovation inside after a short patriotic video and balloon drop.

In the end, this will be a business decision to determine which city can accommodate such a massive event with hotels, fundraising, transportation and security.

'It really does come down to what is the best venue? What is the best hotel situation, transportation situation, and then this intangible piece -- which is what the host committee is doing so well today -- which is rolling out the atmosphere, the people, the generosity, the big hearts,' Priebus explained.

A national political convention is much larger than the Super Bowl with news media alone, Mickelson said. For the NFL Championship game, about 5,000 media members attend. For a national political convention, 15,000 reporters and photographers get credentialed.

No other city presented the rollout Dallas did, the GOP said. Cleveland trotted out Cleveland Browns' newest player Johnny Manziel, Kansas City had fireworks, and Denver's presentation was low-key and more business-like.

Thursday afternoon, the RNC team drove to AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington for a site survey. If Dallas is chosen for the 2016 convention, AT&T Stadium might host one event, the GOP said.

Dallas last hosted a national convention in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was nominated for a second term.

The RNC will announce the host of its 2016 convention on August 8.

E-mail:jwhitely@wfaa.com

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