Utah Olympic Park to Show-Off for GOP Leaders

The following is a collection of excerpts from articles published at sltrib.com:

Flash forward to August 2012.

The streets of downtown Salt Lake City are choked with buses, limousines and cabs shuttling 45,000 visitors who have descended to anoint their standard-bearer, who by that time has run the gantlet of presidential nominating contests.

Hotel rooms are filled and a four-block area around EnergySolutions Arena and the Salt Palace Convention Center have been cordoned off to create a security zone.

Former U.S. presidents, top contenders for the Oval Office, well-known political figures and other VIPs are whisked into restaurants and scores of private parties by their entourages and security details.
About 15,000 reporters watch for any hiccup and, as they did when Utah staged the 2002 Winter Olympics, some inevitably turn their eye to the state’s predominant LDS faith.

This is a taste of what Utah’s top GOP officials and business leaders are vying for this week as a team of Republican National Committee members –including party Chairman Michael Steele — visits Salt Lake City to review the city’s bid to host to the party’s highest-profile, highest-stakes gathering: the 2012 national convention.

The economic benefit of hosting the event could be enormous with an estimated $170 million in spending, although some caution the benefits are overblown.

“Anytime you have literally one of the biggest conventions that are put on in America in your city, it’s a big deal,” said Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the host committee. “These conventions, either the Democrats’ or Republicans’, are just one of the real plums to get into your location.”

The visiting team from the Republican National Committee will be greeted with a dinner Monday night (attendees will include Salt Lake City Democratic Mayor Ralph Becker).

On Tuesday, the RNC Site Selection Committee will visit Utah Olympic Park near Park City and Salt Lake City’s LDS Temple Square before attending a Utah Jazz game at EnergySolutions Arena, a focal point for the gathering.

On Wednesday, they will receive a full tour of the arena and the nearby Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

“We’re really focusing on those things that are intrinsically Utah,” says Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau President Scott Beck — from the mountains and Temple Square the guests will view to the Utah-produced food they will eat.

Hosts will sort of act as Sherpas to help visitors navigate the city and — borrowing from the Olympic experience — collectable pin-trading will be used to engage delegates and put a local stamp on the event.

There is no specific plan to show the Republican guests the area’s night life — or more specifically that visitors can, in fact, get a drink in the city, a question Beck says came up when the bid team presented to the RNC in Washington, D.C., in February.

It is a common question, Beck says, from prospective conventiongoers. “We know from a lot of experience that the best way to [deal with] it is just let it happen organically.” Beck says the delegation will see firsthand that people can order drinks in a hotel or a bar and it’s not much different than the other competitors.

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