By Steve Harrison and Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer
Six years after hosting President Barack Obama and the Democrats, the city of Charlotte said Thursday it will submit a bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Bids for the RNC are due at the end of February.
“We all remember hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2012,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said. “It was a big success. I’m very excited about this. I’m very hopeful the convention will choose our city.”
Charlotte may have a good chance at landing the RNC.
President Donald Trump won North Carolina by 3.7 percentage points in 2016, and the state may be close again in 2020. In recent years, both Republicans and Democrats have been placing their conventions in highly contested states.
The 2016 RNC was held in Cleveland. The Republican’s 2012 convention was in Tampa. Both Ohio and Florida are considered swing states.
In addition, Charlotte is considerably larger than it was in 2012, when it hosted the DNC at what was then the Time Warner Cable Arena. Several new hotels have been built uptown, adding hundreds of rooms. That would mean fewer delegates and guests would have to take long bus rides from the arena to their hotel, as was the case at the DNC.
Besides new hotels like the Embassy Suites across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, several other hotels are scheduled to open this year or in 2019.
They include: The Grand Bohemian, a 254-room luxury hotel on West Trade Street; a 270-room Intercontinental hotel that’s part of the Carolina Theatre renovation on North Tryon Street; and at least one new hotel at Stonewall Station, the retail and residential complex that’s nearly finished in Second Ward.
The RNC is expected to fill 16,000 hotel rooms.
The Charlotte Convention Center did not play a huge role during the 2012 DNC, though it did host the media. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority plans a $100 million renovation of the convention center that’s scheduled to start in the spring of 2019. The renovation wouldn’t be finished in time for the RNC, which would be held in the summer of 2020.
The city considered bidding for the 2016 RNC, but decided against it.
The city and the CRVA will work together on the bid.
“We classify events like the RNC as a ‘strategic event’ for our community,” said CRVA chief executive Tom Murray. “These types of events not only generate substantial economic impact, but also create extensive awareness for our destination by putting us on a national stage.”
Lyles said the effort started in December, when the RNC sent the city a letter suggesting they bid. She praised U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Richard Burr for helping promote the city.
“Without their support we would be just another community in this political landscape,” she said.
Lyles said the RNC would help grow Charlotte’s economy and promote the city’s national and international image. Asked if hosting Trump and the RNC in Charlotte – where Democrats outnumber Republicans and hold a super-majority on City Council – would be awkward in the midst of a divisive 2020 election, Lyles said no. The host committee would be bipartisan, she said.
“As mayor of this great city, we’ve got to do things that support everyone,” Lyles said. “We’ll let the Republicans handle all the politics.”
“I’m worried about those folks not coming and bringing enough green,” rather than the politics of a convention, Lyles said.