DNC would use Xcel Center for possible convention

If the Democratic National Convention is held in the Twin Cities in 2008, major events would be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul rather than the Target Center or Metrodome.

But Minneapolis officials said the recent decision by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) isn’t bad news for the city. While the major evening events for the convention would be held at the Xcel Center, the DNC would use the Minneapolis Convention Center and other hotels and Downtown office spaces for the convention headquarters and a grassroots organizing center. Convention attendees would be shuttled between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“It really cements the cooperation between the two cities,” mayoral spokesperson Jeremy Hanson said, adding that many of the entertainment venues in Minneapolis would remain hot spots for visitors.

Officials from both Minneapolis and St. Paul have been working together to bring the Democratic and Republican national conventions to the Twin Cities in 2008. Representatives from the Democratic National Committee visited the Twin Cities in late June, touring the three possible facilities, as well as hotels and entertainment venues. Representatives from the Republican National Committee will take a similar tour Aug. 13-15.

There are pros and cons to hosting a convention at any of the three facilities, Hanson said. The Xcel Center is the newest of the three and is a state-of-the art facility, but it is located outside Minneapolis and will create logistical difficulties in having to shuttle attendees back and forth. The Target Center is in a prime location, but Hanson said the security perimeters around it would be the most difficult to arrange and several surrounding blocks would need to be closed off. The Metrodome has sheer size, but it is the oldest of the three facilities.

Kevin Lewis with the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitor’s Association said the announcement that the DNC prefers the Xcel Center really won’t affect the number of people who will stay in Minneapolis and visit its entertainment venues. Thousands of visitors will still pour into the city, he said. And with an estimated 17,000 delegates and staff members expected to attend, hotels in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington would all be called into action.

“The only thing that it really changes is how the shuttle routes will be for the attendees,” Lewis said.

The other finalists for the Democratic National Convention are New York and Denver. New Orleans was also in the running but recently dropped out of contention. The other finalists for the Republican National Convention are New York, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

Both conventions are expected to cost in excess of $50 million in cash and goods, city officials said, but they could pump an estimated $150 million into the local economy, as well as provide national media exposure. The Twin Cities could only host one of the conventions, and city officials said whichever party commits first will get the nod.

The Democratic Party is expected to choose a city by late fall or early winter. The Republican Party will choose a city in January.