RNC tour of Cleveland called ‘magnificent’, ‘surprising’

Republican National Convention
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CLEVELAND--Sports arenas, beauty and culture.

The Republican National Committee got an eyeful, as they toured Cleveland to determine whether to hold their national convention in Northeast Ohio in 2016.

Their visit includes police motorcades for the committee and ‘wining and dining’ at the expense of taxpayers, which Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson defends.

“You have to invest if you’re gonna get a return and whatever that investment is, in that, is minuscule compared to the potential return once we get this convention,” said Jackson.

There is the potential for a lot of money to be made, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Host Committee completed after the 2012 convention.  There was a direct spending impact of $214 million on the local economy when they hosted.

Hosting the convention isn't cheap either.  Cleveland city leaders said it’ll cost upwards of $100 million but half of that, $50 million, would likely be covered by the federal government for security upgrades.  The balance would come from public and private investors.

A visit to University Circle was on the agenda Tuesday afternoon, as Republican National Committee members were taken around Cleveland. They made a stop at Severance Hall, where they were treated to an organ recital.

"It was magnificent; so you have a beautiful community, and there's an interesting mix of kind of the old historic and the renaissance of the new," said Enid Mickelsen, RNC site selection committee chairwoman.

The delegation arrived in town Monday to see whether to hold the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

Cleveland is their first stop. They'll also check out Kansas City, Denver and Dallas.

So far, many committee members are pleasantly surprised by what Cleveland has to offer. "I will say, there have been one or two people who have said to me: I had no idea," said Mickelsen.

Other stops in University Circle included a tour of the Botanical Gardens and dinner inside the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Photos from the RNC committee put out on social media show Governor John Kasich and the Cleveland Browns addressing the group.

Earlier in the day, the site selection committee toured Progressive Field, which could be used to hold some events.

"The field's great, you know; it's nice to have it right next door to the Quicken Center and it looks like it's very convenient," said Johnathan Barnett, a site selection committee member from Arkansas.

The main venue for the convention would be Quicken Loans Arena.  Committee members toured the arena Tuesday morning and revealed some of their thoughts to the media.

"What has totally impressed the committee about Cleveland has been the hunger, the commitment and just the willingness to do whatever it takes to make this work," said national RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

"It's an opportunity not just to host a convention, but to tell Cleveland's story and all the progress that we've made on an international stage," said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

"I think Cleveland has not enjoyed the best reputation that you deserve, and I think a lot of people will be very surprised," Mickelsen said.

The site selection committee leaves town on Wednesday, but not before touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A decision on which city will host the 2016 convention is expected to be made in mid-August.

Read more stories on the RNC, here.

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