- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The City of Brotherly Love is becoming the City of Big Events.

Philadelphia’s selection Thursday as host of next year’s Democratic National Convention comes as it prepares for Pope Francis’ visit in September.

“We are both prepared and fired up,” said a giddy Mayor Michael Nutter. “We’re going to have a rocking good time.”

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who led Philadelphia’s convention bid, said now it’s time for the city to roll up its sleeves and show itself off as a world-class host.

“We got the best show in town,” Brady said.

South Philadelphia’s stadium and arena complex is close to the airport, and shuttles can run up and down Broad Street to the hotels in downtown, Brady said.

And the city has its historical landmarks such as Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center to show off: Nutter led the DNC chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and convention planners on a tour of venues and historical sites two weeks ago.

In addition to infrastructure such as 11,000 hotel rooms and an extensive mass transit network, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Philadelphia’s success in hosting the 2000 Republican National Convention seemed to give it a crucial advantage over the other Democratic finalists, Brooklyn in New York and Columbus, Ohio.

Casey called the selection process a “fierce and difficult competition” that left him in suspense until Wasserman Schultz called him Thursday morning. Nutter got a similar wake-up call.

“That is one hell of a way to start a morning,” Nutter said.

Proponents say the convention will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for the region.

The logistics of the city’s bid and its assurance that it would be able to raise $84 million - up from an estimated $65 million - to cover convention costs were also factors in its selection. City officials have said public money won’t go toward that figure.

Brady said he began assembling the city’s bid two years ago, bringing in Nutter, former mayors and union and business leaders to ensure everybody would support it. Brady also kidded that the city had a better marketing ploy - it’s the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Brady courted Wasserman Schultz with a little of that Brotherly Love himself, hugging her every chance he got over the last two months.

“Every day on the (House) floor, I gave her a hug,” Brady said. “One day she wasn’t in, and I hugged her chief of staff.”

He also knew the way to the selection committee’s heart: through their stomachs.

“It didn’t hurt that we fed them real good,” Brady said. “They all gained 10 pounds. Everywhere they went we had cheesesteaks for them.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, tweeted: “Great news. Philly will be a terrific host.”

Philadelphia last hosted the Democrats in 1948, when the party’s nomination went to President Harry Truman. Republicans nominated then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the city in 2000.

Before the next round of delegates flock to Philadelphia, the pilgrims will.

More than 1.5 million people are expected to visit when Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27.

___

Levy reported from Harrisburg.


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