Kansas City loses bid to host GOP convention

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | 6:14 p.m. CDT; updated 10:49 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

KANSAS CITY — The chance has passed for Kansas City to shine in the national political spotlight.

The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that the city failed to make the cut when its list of finalists to host the 2016 Republican National Convention was narrowed to just two cities, Cleveland and Dallas. Also eliminated was Denver. Here are a few questions and answers about the competition:

Why did Kansas City lose?

Perhaps because it doesn't have enough hotel rooms near the Sprint Center.

Mayor Sly James said he was told by an RNC representative that cutting Kansas City was "an extremely tough decision." When he asked what the city could have done better, James said he was told there were "a few concerns about the proximity of hotels to the convention center."

Cities were to provide at least 16,000 first-class hotel rooms and 1,000 suites, according to the RNC's bid requirements. Kansas City was able to provide 12,000 hotel rooms within a 10-minute drive from downtown but said it could deliver 32,000 rooms within 30 minutes of the arena.

At the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., some participants were displeased by hourlong rides from hotels to the convention site.

Why did Kansas City think it could win?

Because of a combination of charm, nostalgia and modern-day amenities.

Kansas City was bidding for the convention on the 40th anniversary of its last role as host city — the 1976 GOP convention in which Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully challenged President Gerald Ford. At that time, Kansas City had a new airport and a new showcase facility, the Kemper Arena.

Today, Kansas City again has a new arena — the Sprint Center — and has undergone a $6 billion downtown renovation that includes a shiny restaurant and bar district, a renovated luxury hotel and an upgraded grid for telecommunications and infrastructure. The city also counted on its friendliness and convenience: Its central location makes it a relatively easy flight from any part of the continental U.S.

Was it all for naught?

Maybe not.

The effort to attract the convention united elected officials, business leaders, financial donors and tourism promoters. That could pay off for the next big thing.

"We elevated our image and created a lot of pride," said James, "and we had a tremendous amount of teamwork and regional effort that I think will always help this city to be better in the future."

In the short term, Kansas City's loss may save the state money. The legislature had included $5 million in the next budget to help finance the convention that won't be needed now.

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