- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DENVER | Barack Obama yesterday said that accepting the Democratic presidential nomination at Invesco Field at Mile High will give about 60,000 more “ordinary Americans” the chance to witness history, and his campaign immediately used the event to reach out for $5 donors.

“I obviously had the great honor of participating in the last convention in Boston and it was terrific, but one of the things I’ve said in the past is that sometimes our conventions don’t feel like they are open to everybody and for us to be able to do it in Invesco Field is an opportunity for 80,000 who might not otherwise have been able to participate,” said the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Until Monday’s announcement, all prime-time events at the Aug. 25-28 Democratic National Convention, including the acceptance speech that is traditionally viewed by party delegates and officials at the event’s grand finale, were slated for the 22,000-seat Pepsi Center, home of Denver’s professional hockey and basketball teams. Invesco Field, an open-air arena located about a mile north of the Pepsi Center, is home to the Denver Broncos of the National Football League and holds 76,125.

“It’s going to be new, it’s going to be different, it’s going to be incredibly exciting,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday in a conference call with reporters. “And it’s going to be very much in keeping with Barack Obama’s desire for real change in America.”

Mr. Obama, whose speech will be on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, is following in the footsteps of popular Democratic President John F. Kennedy, who accepted his 1960 nomination at a Los Angeles stadium.

Colorado Republicans blasted the plan, calling it a sop to Mr. Obama’s “rock-star ego” and asking how the convention’s host committee would cover the additional expense.

The Denver host committee has struggled to raise the necessary funding. The group fell $11 million short of its June 16 fundraising goal of $40.6 million, although a spokesman said the panel was “fully confident” of meeting its obligations.

“Will Denver taxpayers be stuck with the tab for Senator Obama’s obsession with adoring crowds?” asked Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams in a press release.

Democrats have not yet released a figure on how much more holding the speech at Invesco Field will cost, saying those numbers won’t be ready for a few weeks.

Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn said the campaign plans to pitch in with convention financing now that the primary race is over. Mr. Obama has proven himself an able fundraiser, taking in nearly $300 million as of the May 31 reporting deadline.

The Obama campaign, which dubbed the historic change “Open Convention,” wasted no time in issuing a campaign fundraiser tied to the expansive new venue. An e-mail released yesterday asked supporters to donate $5 before midnight July 31 for a chance to attend the speech.

Mr. Dean insisted that the party would be able to absorb the additional costs associated with the move to Invesco.

“If we were over budget, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Mr. Dean said.

cChristina Bellantoni contributed to this report from Washington.