ARLINGTON — Even with all the luxury hotels, fine dining and world-class attractions Dallas has to offer, city leaders in Big D are still counting on the iconic AT&T Stadium in Arlington to help land the 2016 Republican national convention.Dallas officials led a small group of Republican Party site selection committee members on a tour Thursday of the 80,000-seat stadium, which is being pitched as a possible venue for the four-day convention’s opening or closing ceremonies.Besides reviewing presentations on financing, transportation, logistics and security, site selection committee members on the preliminary visit also checked out attractions such as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and toured the American Airlines Center, where the convention would be held if Dallas is selected.“They were kicking the tires and looking at all the technical aspects of the venues we proposed,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, who is spearheading the Dallas bid. “It was a long but productive day. We’re still an underdog because we got into this game so late. I think we had a very solid site visit.”Dallas is competing against Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas for the convention, which is expected to draw about 50,000 delegates, some of whom will stay in the host city for weeks leading up to the event. As part of its bid, Dallas also provided a list of 75 venues, such as AT&T Stadium, across the region that could host private parties and events. It is the first time that the stadium has been mentioned publicly as a possible venue.This convention likely would also require 16,000 hotel rooms on its peak night and a total of 96,000 hotel rooms during the entire event, estimates show.“This is Dallas’ bid. We’re going to support it every way we can,” said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, who did not attend the AT&T Stadium tour. “We think they are a perfect city to host the convention. Frankly, I really think nobody can have anything else like Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington can as far as fun places to stay and visit.”Jones said he expects to learn in mid-May whether Dallas is named a finalist, which would bring another visit sometime in June from the full site selection committee and more opportunities to “showcase the best of what Dallas has to offer.”A final decision is expected in August, Jones said.“A lot of folks who hadn’t been to Dallas in recent years said they were impressed when they came to town,” Jones said.The GOP national convention is expected to be held in June or July of 2016, Jones said. Because of the possibility of either the Dallas Stars or Dallas Mavericks being in the playoffs, Dallas is hoping to avoid scheduling problems at the American Airlines Center by bidding on the July dates.“When you have a NBA team and a NHL hockey team, there is always the possibility of playoffs. There is a window of time you may or may not be able to offer for move-in for events like the Republican National Convention,” Jones said. “We can’t guarantee the dates in June but we can guarantee the dates in July.”Dallas was the site of the 1984 Republican National Convention, where President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were nominated for re-election. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock