by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 01, 2007

Denver’s Mayor John Hickenlooper
Denver’s Mayor John Hickenlooper

Choosing a site in the center of the country over the main competition on the East Coast, New York City, the Democratic National Committee announced it will hold its national convention in Denver, Aug. 25-29, 2008.

“There is no question that the West is important to the future of the party,” said DNC Chairman Howard Dean in a mid-January statement. “Recent Democratic gains in the West exemplify that when we show up and talk about what we stand for, we can win in any part of the country.”

Local officials expect the gathering of about 35,000 people will be Denver’s largest ever and will bring in an estimated $160 million in direct and indirect spending. The convention will take place in the Pepsi Center, home of basketball’s Denver Nuggets. The 2004 Democratic Convention, held in Boston, was estimated to have contributed $121 million to that city’s economy.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate what Denver has accomplished,” said the city’s mayor, John Hickenlooper, referring to recent developments like the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, which was completed in 2004 and brought the facility’s exhibition space up to 584,000 square feet; the opening of the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Denver, which last summer became the only unionized property in the city; and last October’s debut of the Daniel Libeskind-designed expansion of the Denver Art Museum.

The increase in Democratic leadership in the West was one of Denver’s main sales pitches to the DNC. “Montana has a Democratic governor, Wyoming does, Arizona does,” noted Hickenlooper, himself a party member. “The West is not traditionally Democratic, but a lot of the core ideas are now being embraced out here.”

In terms of preparing the city for the high-profile gathering, “the challenge is twofold,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We want to position Denver in the best possible light to the 15,000 international journalists who will be in town to cover the convention, and at the same time create an event that will be as popular and memorable for our residents.”

Expected to come online in the 17 months leading up to the convention are another 2,000 hotel rooms, adding to the metro area’s current 40,000. Among new properties will be the 350-room Ritz-Carlton, Denver, set to open by early 2008, and the 180-room Renaissance Hotel in the Denver Tech Center, opening in July 2008.

The Republican National Convention will be held in Saint Paul, Minn., Sept. 1-4, 2008.