As the much-anticipated selection of the host city for the 2008 Democratic National Convention was revealed, Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak leapt from her seat, and host committee co-chairwoman Juanita Chacon let out a smile and a sigh of relief.
After more than a year of planning and pitching, the Denver Democratic National Convention host committee was forced to wait even longer after the selection board failed to reach a decision before the 2007 goal. On Jan. 11, the verdict was in, and Denver beat out New York City to host to the 2008 convention 100 years after hosting its only previous convention in 1908. Now the real work begins.
“Now comes the hard part. Our job is not simply to not screw this up. Our job is to make this the most amazing convention in the history of the Democratic Party,” host committee co-chairman David Slater wrote in his blog.
The planning commission will face the same obstacles that plagued Denver’s convention bid through the selection process. The chief concern among planners is whether a city of roughly 550,000 citizens can adequately accommodate a convention of this magnitude, which will be held at the Pepsi Center at the end of August.
“We need roughly 7,500 volunteers in all sorts of areas such as greeting delegates, hosting and the like. In addition, we must find hotels for the some 35,000 visitors. We’ve already booked every hotel in the downtown and tech center areas, but it is likely more will be needed. The logistics of this convention are staggering,” Chacon said.
To meet this challenge, event planners hope to enlist the help and support of surrounding communities, and Boulder Democrats are eager to get onboard.
“I would love to see more attention on Boulder County because the Democrats here are very active. I think we really need to be proactive in promoting Boulder as a very strong community, not only in terms of entertainment and housing, but as a political leader in the state,” said Deb Gardner, chairwoman of the Boulder County Democrats.
Gardner stressed that Boulder had an opportunity to attract some of the economic benefits that the influx of delegates, journalists and political enthusiasts will bring to the metro area.
The host committee has budgeted $70 million to prepare Denver for the convention, which includes funds to build a structure adjacent to the Pepsi Center to house media personnel. In addition, the visitors coming to the area are expected to generate an estimated $150 to $200 million in revenue for restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.
“Boulder is in a somewhat unique position as a community that can offer a strong, active Democratic populace as well as an easy 30-minute trip to Denver,” Gardner said.
Chacon reiterated that because regional cooperation is so essential to the success of the convention, it is likely delegates would not only find homes in Boulder, but in other surrounding counties such as Adams County.
“I simply couldn’t imagine a scenario where Boulder wouldn’t be involved,” Chacon said.
Because of the volunteer opportunities surrounding the convention, junior Spanish major and College Democrats member Amy Hogue encouraged all students to get as involved as they could.
“Timing is an issue since the convention falls right around move-in, but I would love to see college students get involved. I think every Colorado resident should take advantage of this opportunity because whether they realize it or not, they will be affected by it,” Hogue said.
Though both Chacon and Gardner said the new focus on the Western states as political hotspots made Denver the logical convention location, the city’s bid for the convention hit road bumps along the way from opposition of unimpressed citizens.
In December, the city’s bid almost fell apart when labor leaders from a local stagehand union refused to sign a no-strike pledge. Union leaders said they would not sign in support of a venue that employs non-unionized labor. Although a union strike would not affect the operation of the Pepsi Center, no-strike agreements are mandatory with all unions. The dispute remained unsolved and the selection committee chose Denver anyway.
“From the state-of-the-art facilities to the commitment of community leaders to hosting an outstanding event, Mayor Hickenlooper and the host committee made clear that the Denver convention will be a great one,” former presidential hopeful and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said in a press release.
Democratic leaders are also hoping to capitalize on the recent gains made into the traditionally Republican West after the 2006 midterm elections, and many Democrats from neighboring states pledged their support for the Denver bid.
“Our golden opportunity is, 100 years later, we will be able to showcase Denver as a bastion of political leadership. We will show to the world that we know what it means to be decision-makers. After this convention, it will be the West that decides the next president,” Chacon said.