DALLAS (TIP): Dallas officials are backing off a claim that they could prepare American Airlines Center for the 2016 Republican convention a month faster than the period GOP officials have demanded, says a report published in March 14 Dallas Morning News. But as a Dallas contingent readies to present its bid next week to the party’s site selection committee in Washington, it still appears unlikely that the city will be able to guarantee anything close to the full six weeks outlined in bid specifications.
The trouble for Dallas – and fellow bidders Denver, Phoenix, Cleveland and Columbus – is the playoff schedule for the NBA and the NHL. Dave Brown, the arena’s general manager, said Dallas is proposing a “sufficient window to get it accomplished” – longer than two weeks.He declined to elaborate. He said he didn’t recall telling The Dallas Morning News in an interview last month that “there’s no reason why a two-week window in front cannot accommodate the convention.” But if he did, Brown said this week, then he “probably shouldn’t have.”
The timing dilemma is a key snag in Dallas’ bid to land the convention,where Republicans will formally nominate their next presidential candidate.Officials with extensive experience in political convention planning say it takes several weeks to prepare an arena for such an event, with construction often running right up until the event starts. As for a two-week time frame? “Impossible,” said Phil Alongi, executive producer of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. “People who say that, they quite frankly don’t know what they are talking about.” Dallas is one of eight competitors for the 2016 GOP convention,which would attract up to 50,000 people.
And while all the cities feature pluses and minuses, Dallas is considered one of the front-runners, based on the availability of hotels near the arena and local organizers’ ability to raise money. But the preferred GOP timetable could prove vexing for Dallas officials. The GOP wants to hold its convention much earlier than in recent years, starting on a Monday between June 27 and July 18. GOP brass appear to favor the earliest possible date to give the next GOP nominee an even greater head start on the general election. The Republican National Committee’s 2016 bid specifications require that the party be granted “unlimited and exclusive access” to the main convention area six weeks before the event starts.
That would mean early June at the latest. Over the last 10 years, the NBA Finals’ Game 7 has been scheduled, on average, for June 20. For the NHL, it’s been June 13. The latest finals game for either sport over the last 10 years was in 2013,when the NHL finished June 24. Those schedules typically aren’t finalized until before that year’s regular seasons. And officials with the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars have said they wouldn’t move any playoff games to accommodate a convention. So to be safe, Dallas officials will have to account for the worst-case scenario – logistically, at least – that the Mavs and Stars make their league’s respective finals in 2016.That would probably leave just four weeks for arena prep time, a crunch that wouldn’t be an issue in Las Vegas, Kansas City and Cincinnati,which don’t have pro basketball or hockey teams. “We’re proposing an availability and a plan that will certainly be able to accommodate their needs,” Brown said.
He reiterated that the city wouldn’t ask the teams to move possible playoff games. “Our first obligation is to our teams,” he said. “We’re going to save every playoff date.”Six weeks may seem excessive for a convention that usually lasts four days. American Airlines Center routinely shifts quickly between basketball and hockey. Major concerts come through all the time. And the arena has hosted other major events.Brown said last month that the arena’s setup and staff experience lend itself to a “much shorter move-in and make-ready time” for the convention. He suggested a “two-week window” rather than “five, six, seven weeks,which they would like to have.””We move in massive shows overnight, in six-, eight-hour time frames,” he said then.
“The window the RNC has requested, I think, has probably got a lot of slack in it.”Experienced convention planners say that’s not the case. They emphasize that every extra moment counts in the rush to get ready. Workers build the podium, an elaborate, high-tech display with multiple video screens. Seats are rearranged, and many are completely removed. Luxury suites often have to be ripped apart and rebuilt. Miles upon miles of cable are brought in. Television networks from around the world build full broadcast studios.Workspace is constructed for thousands of media members and convention staff.
And sometimes the changes go even deeper – in 1996, the setup of the Democratic convention required that large slabs of concrete be carved out of the United Center in Chicago. Then everything must be checked. The production has to be rehearsed. And all of it has to be done within the confines of extremely tight security. “You just need every asset you can bring to bear to make it happen,” said Don Foley,who managed the 1996 Democratic convention. Officials said it might be possible to shrink the preparations down to four weeks. But that would cost more, as crews would have to work around the clock.
There would be little room for error. And elements of the production might have to be scaled back.The city’s reputation could also take a hit – as Sochi’s did before the recent Winter Olympics – if major work still needs to be finished when the media arrives in earnest the week before the convention.”The first rounds of stories will be, ‘Do you have your act together?'” said Wally Podrazik,who has planned media logistics for several Democratic conventions. “It’s really important for the party to have sufficient time.”