- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - Organizers say Cleveland must secure 4,000 more hotel rooms and raise an additional $25 million to meet its money commitment for the 2016 Republican National Convention next July, but preparations are nevertheless on pace.

About 50,000 people, including 15,000 members of the media, are expected to attend the convention and more than 1,000 related events.

Officials from Cleveland 2016 Host Committee see the four-day event as Cleveland’s opportunity to show the world how the city has been transformed in the past decade. Mayor Frank Jackson said at a news conference Wednesday that the hope is to “present Cleveland in the greatest light that we can.”

MILLIONS TO BE RAISED

Cleveland’s winning bid included a commitment to raise $64 million in cash and in-kind services to pay for convention-related expenses. Most of the money will be spent preparing Quicken Loans Arena for the convention, David Gilbert, head of the host committee, said in an interview last week. Cleveland has raised about $39 million, mostly from within Ohio. Fundraising efforts will now focus nationally on corporations and individuals, Gilbert said. Philadelphia is expected to raise $84 million for next year’s Democratic convention.

GIVE THEM SHELTER

The host committee’s effort to secure the 16,000 hotel rooms required by the RNC stumbled in recent months after some hotels reneged on voluntary agreements to provide about 1,500 rooms. Those rooms, Gilbert said, represent a big chunk of the 4,000 rooms that still need to be secured. Gilbert said some of the hotel rooms could be located outside the 35-mile radius from Quicken Loans Arena established in the host committee’s agreement with the RNC.

THE BUS STOPS HERE

Gilbert is mindful of the transportation problems that plagued the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. Some delegations had to endure long waits for buses taking them to and from the convention site. A transportation consultant is being hired to help Cleveland figure out how best to move thousands of people in and out of downtown. Gilbert hopes that the 5,000 downtown hotel rooms will help reduce traffic snarls. Parking will be at a premium and shuttle buses will be needed for lots situated outside of downtown, he said.

SECURITY MINDED

The city will be responsible for administering a $50 million federal grant to pay for a security plan created by the U.S. Secret Service. A good chunk of that money will be spent on uniforms, housing and food for thousands of law enforcement officers who will be hired for the convention. A security perimeter will be established around Quicken Loans Arena where only those with credentials will be allowed inside. An area will be established outside that zone for protesters.

LONG-TERM BENEFITS

While the convention will result in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in Cleveland in the coming months, local officials like Gilbert, who is also president and CEO of the region’s tourism agency, see the convention as a prime opportunity for the city to shine. Roads are being resurfaced and streetscapes are being gussied up. A $30 million makeover of iconic Public Square is expected to be completed. Gilbert said the convention’s biggest benefit would be a boost in tourism and convention bookings that will help sustain the city and region for years to come. “We want people to understand that it’s not only about that one week,” he said. “We think this will position us incredibly well for the future.”

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