It’s tough to follow up Arizona’s hosting of the Super Bowl in 2015, but 2016 has the possibility to bring yet another large-scale event to the Grand Canyon state.
Phoenix will submit a bid to be one of the 15 cities in the running to host the Democratic National Convention in summer 2016, Mayor Greg Stanton announced Tuesday.
The Democratic National Committee, which runs the convention, asked the city to formally apply after Stanton informally indicated Phoenix would be interested, he said. The committee will select the host city in late 2014 or early 2015.
Stanton also said he supported efforts to attract the Republican National Convention as well, but Phoenix did not advance as far in that process.
This invitation shows a great deal about the nation’s view of Phoenix, he said.
“The fact that Phoenix was in the final group for the Republican National Convention, even though that did not continue, and now for the Democratic National Convention is truly an acknowledgment that Phoenix is ready to be the host of some of the most important events in the world,” Stanton said.
He said the convention, which would likely be hosted at the US Airways Center and Phoenix Convention Center, would bring a great deal of traffic to businesses not just in Phoenix but all around the state. Tourism would increase and those attending the event might also travel to see the Grand Canyon and other attractions.
But there would be significant expenses as well, including security measures and increased transportation options, Stanton said.
“There would be a significant amount of revenue for the city and state but there would also be a significant amount of cost,” he said. “But the upside is building that reputation. Because if you come here, you’re going to want to come back.”
These benefits therefore outweigh the inconveniences, and would make hosting the event hugely beneficial for the city of Phoenix, Stanton said.
“There are both short-terms benefits in the form of sales for local business and there are also long-term impacts both in building the brand of Phoenix and longer-term relationships that would be built with business leaders that would attend as well,” he said.
Stanton, who is a Democrat, said the fact that Arizona is traditionally a “red state” doesn’t bother him at all when considering this event.
“That’s an old way of thinking when selecting sites for conventions,” he said. “Arizona is currently a red state, but it’s getting more and more purple. There are more Independents than either party now, and in the future, I think Arizona will be known as a purple state.”
In 2012, the Democratic National Convention was hosted in North Carolina, which is also traditionally a “red state.”
Stanton said he believes his constituents are excited about the opportunity to show off their city in the national spotlight, all politics aside.
“I think putting aside the partisan nature … convention business is big business,” he said. “The people of Phoenix expect me, as mayor, to pursue opportunity to showcase my city.”
But James Malone, an ASU economics sophomore and vice president of the ASU College Republicans club, said hosting the event in Phoenix has very political motivations.
“It’s a desperate attempt to turn Arizona blue,” he said.
Malone said despite this, Republicans in Arizona will see through this attempt by the Democratic party to change the state’s politics and will become more aware of the party’s flaws.
“It would certainly distract from other areas where Democrats would have a stronger hold, so I’d be perfectly happy with them wasting resources here,” he said. “Arizona has a strong conservative background, historically speaking, so I think Republicans have a good shot in the election, and I don’t think the Democrats have a shot of changing the state color.”
Aside from the convention being a political effort, the event would likely boost local businesses, Malone said.
Rick Murray, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, agreed, and said Arizona’s small businesses would welcome what the convention would mean for the state’s economy.
“Having an event like that would be an economic development boost,” he said. “Part of the economic development effort is not only from the business side but also from the tourism side. … (Large events) are great opportunities for small businesses, and the more we can attract that business from out-of-state, it will obviously be good for the businesses and the Arizona economy.”
Murray said his organization isn’t interested in the politics of the event and is simply excited for the potential for local prosperity.
“We’re agnostic when it comes to politics of an event like that,” he said. “Any time you get tens of thousands of people coming in for one event, it’s a great opportunity for small businesses to get a bump in their sales.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @mahoneysthename