Leadership Exchange: Conventions, Sports, Hospitality

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Kelly Brough, Denver Maykristiwyatt1or John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, takes on a new challenge on October 1: the role of President of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. She spoke to the Kansas City delegation this morning, saying “We will not be passed by.” She said the spirit of cooperation in Denver will help guide them through the recession. That is cooperation among the region’s 32 mayors, and cooperation among the public & private sectors. She said that their city government has been focused on serious challenges, inspiring new alliances, and pushing for transparency and openness to increase public confidence. The real test of their region, Brough said, will be the funding to complete their light rail FasTracks initiative.

Mike Dino, Senior Policy Adviser for Patton Briggs, told the group about the enormous effort involved in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Denver in 2008. More than 50,000 guests (made up of 6,000 delegates – 20,000 media – 24,000 elected officials, VIPs and staff) were involved. It took 14,000 volunteers, 95 hotels with 17,000 rooms, and 300 local and national staff. The local host committee costs were $60 million, with an economic impact of $266 million, resulting in direct spending of $133.5 million. The Democratic National Convention required police forces from all over the region to pitch in and provide security. “We always want to get more eyeballs on our city,” Dino said. One key element to landing the 2008 Convention: planners said the city was ideally laid out, with necessary infrastructure in place.  In 2000, the city was a top 3 finalist for the Convention. At that time, however, there was no convention center hotel, the Pepsi Center (one of the two main venues) was just a year old, and the convention center had not yet been doubled in size. The city was not ready then, Dino said, but the experience put Denver on the radar of the selection committee.

Rob Cohen, who is leading Denver’s bid to gain the Winter Olympics, said Denver has 7 of the top 8 pro sports franchises that you can have… only missing a WNBA team, which is in discussion.  The region also has five Division 1 schools in the area and six stadiums. The compact downtown helps, too. In 1976, Denver was the only city in the history of the Olympic Games to be awarded them and then to vote to give them back. Cohen says the area’s assets for a winter bid are the negatives for a summer bid. Their activities include budget/finance work, building relationships with the IOC and USOC, local and political outreach, and local, national, and international communication strategy. Why are they bidding for the Olympics? “Any community can do it, because every city starts with a group of folks talking about a plan for action, then doing it. Besides, if Lake Placid, NY can host an Olympics, Denver can.” The value of an Olympics includes community pride, economic impact, and moving up long-term infrastructure projects. Cohen said their goal is long-term to get the Olympics to Denver… not tied to any specific year.

Walter Isenberg of Sage Hospitality told us that we should be taking a look at what great strengths we have, and figuring out how we market to those. He said for every marketing dollar you spend, the return is 10 to 1. Marketing their community improves their tax base, growing revenue, instead of just reducing expenses to make budgets balance. He said that their convention center hotel has put them on the map. If you look at it as an expense, you’ll never do it. If you look at it as an investment to improve your infrastructure, then it just makes sense.

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