RNC: Update on the Details

RNC: Update on the DetailsBeth A. KapesHost Committee

It has been over 80 years since Cleveland hosted a Republican National Convention, and now the time for the city to once again take center stage is fast approaching. While much has changed, the excitement from the city and the region is as contagious as it was in 1936.

With two previous bids for the Convention, first in the 1980s, and again in 2008, falling short in bringing the big event here, Cleveland’s success in securing the 2016 Republican National Convention has initiated local, national and global anticipation. The 41st Convention is just mere weeks away, yet Clevelanders may still wonder how it actually got here, who is polishing the details to make sure the Convention shines July 18th through the 21st—and what lies beyond for the city.  

David Gilbert, President and CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, explains that this historical event is a story of determination that will continue to impact Cleveland and the region for years to come.

“The Convention isn’t a destination, but a runway that will build our future,” says Gilbert. “Hosting [the Convention] is an incredible opportunity for Clevelanders to take pride in what we have built and connected—and for the rest of the world to rediscover our city.”

Bringing the GOP to town
Rejection can shatter the best efforts, but the city was not deterred when its first two attempts to host the Convention were denied. In fact, the 2008 rejection fueled Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and his team’s determination to seek a detailed debriefing from Republican convention veterans on necessary developments for improving the city’s chances. The team’s efforts were showcased when leaders collaborated to invest nearly $3 billion in both public and private visitor-related infrastructure, including seven new hotels in and around downtown. The well-thought out improvements also include the state-of-the-art Convention Center opened in mid-2013, which complements Quicken Loans Arena (The Q).

Yet, even with impressive improvements, the competition was steep as Cleveland challenged five other cities for the Convention. Finally, the city prevailed.

“In addition to addressing all of the critical requirements—including fundraising, hotels, facilities and transportation—of the site selection committee, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee stayed true to the region’s history of risk-taking, collaboration and grit—emphasizing Northeast Ohio’s distinct personality, rich assortment of eclectic venues and hotels, a walkable downtown and a quiet but powerful urban renaissance in the bid,” states Gilbert.

Collaboration for the Convention
Hosting the Convention means working closely with the Committee on Arrangements (COA), a separate organization that is part of the Republican National Committee (RNC) with leadership appointed by RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus. By Convention time, the number of COA staff members is expected to be about 120.

The COA leadership is made up of members of the RNC, with at least one member from each state, led by Chairman Steve King and Co-Chairman Jo Ann Davidson. It’s the COA’s job to literally make the Convention happen. Their role includes planning the event programming, building out Quicken Loans Arena to house all of the attendees and the Convention Center where the media will be housed, in addition to working with the delegates and media to ensure lodging and transportation details, and much more.

To help the COA deliver on the details, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee was formed. As an Ohio nonprofit corporation with no political affiliation, the Host Committee is responsible for organizing the logistics, hosting and funding the Convention.

“The Host Committee’s mission is to promote Northeast Ohio and ensure Cleveland is best represented, and to lessen the burden of local governments,” Gilbert says.
The Host Committee is comprised of prominent business executives, civic leaders and other influential leaders from across Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the nation who are dedicated to the Convention’s success. In addition to being staffed by six full-time employees, the Host Committee is generously supported by many employees of Destination Cleveland, the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

“The major difference between the Host Committee and the Committee on Arrangements is that the Host Committee is nonpolitical and has no control over, or connection to, what happens inside the Convention site,” explains Gilbert.

The Host Committee has been busy since Cleveland was chosen as the Convention’s home base. In addition to raising resources needed to fund the infrastructure and logistics to support the Convention, ensuring the amenities needed and furnishing the operational needs of the COA, the Host Committee recruits and manages volunteers and assists with many other logistical needs and partners with the City as well as civic, public and private entities to showcase Cleveland.

With 50,000 visitors, including 15,000 credentialed media heading to Cleveland in July, the impact of the Convention—both historically and on the City’s future—is not lost on Gilbert.

“We want those who come to Cleveland to head home understanding what makes Northeast Ohio a great place to live, work, play and visit,” he says. “This is an incredible region with a strong sense of independence, determination and innovation and many eclectic assets. It’s our commitment as the host city to ensure the best convention possible.”