Birmingham chosen as finalist to host 2016 DNC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Birmingham will get a visit from the National Democratic Party in their bid to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016. The Magic City is one of six finalists for the convention.

“We’re excited about it,” Mayor William Bell said Wednesday afternoon. ” We have worked feverishly with a group of outstanding business leaders as well as civic leaders to get us to this point.”

The other finalists are Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Phoenix, Arizona. Each city will get a visit from the Democratic Party in the next two to four weeks.

Mayor Bell knows that Birmingham is the underdog in this race.

“We got word that some of the committee members, they thought, ‘Oh, it looks nice for Birmingham to submit,’ but they didn’t give us any real credence, but once we made the presentation and they saw how serious we were about it, it changed their whole view of potentially coming here to the Deep South,” Mayor Bell said.

The estimated cost for the city would be around $79 million. Bell says that would come from both the public and private sectors. The economic impact, however, is estimated to be between $150 million and $230 million.

” You’re talking about people coming from around the world to Birmingham or the national convention site to participate, and they’re bringing dollars with them,” Bell said. “That’s our primary motivation for this effort: one, to put Birmingham on the map both nationally and internationally. Two, to have an economic impact for our region and three, to showcase this city for the great city that we know it is.”

One of the biggest hurdles for the city of Birmingham will be it’s location in a traditionally red state.

“We pointed out, yes, Birmingham is in Alabama and Alabama is a red state,” Bell said. “We feel that it would be an appropriate venue to hold here in the Deep South.”

The last election Alabama’s nine electoral college votes went to the Democratic candidate was in 1976 when Jimmy Carter was running for president.

“Alabama has about as much chance as getting the Democratic convention as Wyoming does,” Steve Flowers, a political columnist in the state of Alabama, said. “Wyoming and Alabama are two of the most Republican states in America. The primary reason that they choose a city or a state is the chance for that state to go with that party the presidential election.”

With that in mind, Flowers thinks the two Ohio cities, Cleveland and Columbus, have the best chance.

“Those two cities will more than likely be selected because Ohio is the ultimate swing state,” Flowers said.

However, by getting a visit, Birmingham will have the chance to leave an impression on the Democratic party. What kind of impression is up for debate.

“There aren’t great public transportation options, especially for people that are coming into the city from outside,” said Austin Senseman. “It’s a little difficult to understand what’s going on with public transportation here.”

“We don’t have enough hotels and enough parking,” Eddie Staffney said. “Parking is a problem around here.”

Bell says the area has 17,000 hotel rooms for use during the convention.

“Not all of them are large hotels but we have enough hotel space,” Bell said. ” The last time that they had a convention in Charlotte (in 2012), I think they utilized some 12,000 rooms, which was much less than the rooms that we put on the table.”

Bell says the main facility for the event would be the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, but other venues were mentioned in the bid.

“Other sites that will be used as ancillary location would be like the Medical Forum, Legion Field itself, the Crossplex, Barber Motorsports.”

However, the proposed dome was not included in the bid.

“The submission that we made was based on facilities that we currently have,” Bell said.

With everything taken into consideration, the opportunity for Birmingham with this process has some people excited.

“There’s so much growth going on right now. There’s so much energy,” Kathleen Hamrick said. “We just have a lot going on. It seems like the perfect time for this.”

“I think it would be a positive move for the city and it would put it in a positive spotlight for the country,” Jimmy Turner said. “That’s what Birmingham needs.”

After the visits are made to each city, the Democratic party will announce the location of the 2016 Democratic National Convention late this year or early 2015.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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