Dallas is a finalist for GOP national convention

02/28/2014 8:36 AM

02/28/2014 8:58 AM

Dallas is a finalist competing with seven other cities to host the Republican presidential nomination convention in 2016 — a huge event expected to draw 50,000 delegates, thousands of journalists and the national media spotlight.

While public officials throughout Texas were pleading unity Thursday in backing the Dallas bid, signs of potential trouble for the bid emerged back home.

Dallas elected officials want to make the American Airlines Center the primary site for the GOP convention. But the city’s pro basketball and hockey franchises indicated Thursday that they have no intention of vacating the American Airlines Center to make way for the convention if they are still in the playoffs at the time.

Their comments followed the announcement by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that party leaders will consider eight finalist cities during the coming months: Dallas, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City, Mo., and three in Ohio — Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The initial finalists are scheduled to make their first formal presentations to RNC officials in Washington next week, although some cities have begun offering gifts and throwing parties to influence decision-makers.

The cities largely represent swing states that will help decide the 2016 election. Democrats have yet to identify potential sites.

Dallas has hosted a national convention once before — the 1984 Republican National Convention, where President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were nominated for re-election.

The RNC is already considering several changes to its presidential selection process to help give its nominee an advantage, including shortening the primary season and reducing the debates. GOP officials expect to hold their convention in early summer 2016, roughly two months sooner than normal.

Republicans plan to visit sites in the spring and will make their final pick by this fall.

The Dallas Mavericks are not willing to move potential playoff games from the American Airlines Center to make way for the convention, team owner Mark Cuban said Thursday.

Cuban’s stance could complicate the city’s bid.

Dallas was the last city to join the hunt. The other finalists have been preparing for months.

Those behind the Dallas push have said the American Airlines Center would be the primary convention site. Dave Brown, executive vice president and general manager of the arena, is among the Dallas representatives expected to travel to Washington to formally present the city’s bid Monday.

The GOP plans to start its convention between June 26 and July 18, though exact dates haven’t been set and could hinge on host-city details.

The 2016 bid specifications issued by the Republican National Committee require that the party be granted “unlimited and exclusive access” to the main convention area starting six weeks before the convention. That could make the host arena essentially unusable for other events after early June.

The NBA playoffs begin in April and, in recent years, have not ended before mid-June.

The Mavericks have been in the NBA Finals twice in the last eight years. In 2006, they lost to the Miami Heat, with the sixth and deciding game played June 20. In 2011, the Mavericks beat the Heat in six games, securing their first and only NBA championship June 12.

Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement that the city’s proposal poses no conflict with anything at the American Airlines Center.

Dallas Stars officials said they also have no plans to move any potential playoff games.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, one of those leading the convention push, was unavailable for comment on the Dallas bid.

“Mayor Rawlings does not have time in his schedule to discuss this issue,” spokesman Sam Merten said Wednesday.

Staff writers Anna M. Tinsley and John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press.

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