Site Selection 2004 

City of Tampa  |  Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau
"In addition to our world-class resources and accommodations, Florida also holds an important place in our nation's political landscape.  As you are aware, Florida is the fourth most populous state in the nation with 27 electoral college votes, and hosting the 2004 Republican National Convention in Florida will send a strong, positive message of our party's commitment to victory in this state.  I hope you will give the Tampa/St. Petersburg area every consideration to serve as the home of the 2004 Republican National Convention."

 --Governor Jeb Bush, in a letter to the RNC Site Selection Committee

 Tampa – St. Petersburg: The Strategic Choice

Tampa Bay has grown into a major population center and a political bellwether community, accurately predicting statewide trends.  The Tampa Bay area subsequently has become a key focal point for any national political campaign.  The candidate capturing the hearts and imaginations of Tampa Bay voters likely stands a good chance of doing well at statewide- and nationwide-levels. 

Strategic Partnerships:
Tampa Bay's Host Committee has the necessary experience, influence, and commitment to successfully produce the Republican National Convention.  The Host Committee is co-chaired by Al Austin, CEO of the Austin Companies and current Finance Committee Chairman for the Republican Party of Florida, Bob Basham, COO of Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse, Dick Beard, Owner and President of R.A. Beard & Co. and a past Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1995 – 1998, and Rick Michaels, CEO of Communications Equity Associates, who has also served as Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Republican Regents program since its inception in 1999.  Since its brief inception, the Tampa – St. Petersburg Host Committee numbers almost 90 individuals, reflecting the strong support and diversity from the participating municipalities, counties, state and business community.

Strategic Convention Venues:
Boasting impressive capacity, the latest technology and modern amenities, the Ice Palace arena provides the perfect setting for the main convention area.  Media workspace is easily accommodated at the adjoining Tampa Convention Center.  Both facilities enjoy dramatic views of the waterfront and the downtown Tampa skyline, while nestled in the middle is the brand new 717-room headquarters hotel, the Tampa Marriott Waterside.  With over 21,000 seats and 82 luxury skyboxes at the Ice Palace, and over 360,000 square feet of usable space at the Tampa Convention Center, both facilities’ packages are further enhanced by the fact that Florida is a right-to-work state.

Strategic Accommodations:
With over 40,000 available guest rooms in the Tampa Bay area, the target of 20,000 rooms and 2,000 suites was easily achieved for the formal bid.  Overnight options include beach front properties, golf resorts, and high-rise luxury hotels. 

Strategic Support:
Tampa Bay is a bastion of hospitality, thanks to its population of local residents who consistently welcome 27 million visitors each year.  Additionally, the area provides peace of mind when it comes to security.  Not only do the local law enforcement agencies operate as a unified security task force under the Mutual Aid Agreement, but also MacDill Air Force Base, the world’s current peace keeper, serves as headquarters for both the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command.

Strategic Transportation:
Tampa Bay boasts one of the most popular and admired airports in the world, Tampa International Airport.  Offering additional accessibility are St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport and eight other regional airports.  Once in Tampa, delegates will enjoy a myriad of transportation options, including electric streetcars, rubber wheeled trolleys and a network of over 350 buses.  To insure maximum connectivity and convenience, the Host Committee has developed a detailed four-phase transportation plan.

The Winning Strategy:
The vibrant community of 2.5 million residents known as Tampa Bay awaits the opportunity to provide the experience, the venues, the support, but also the strategic edge as a prospective Host City for the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Photo Courtesy Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau
The RNC's Site Selection Committee visited the Ice Palace during its stop in Tampa-St. Pete on Aug. 6-8, 2002.

Text of Nov. 22, 2002 letter from Florida's 18 Republican congressmen.

Observations.  Tampa-St. Pete is mounting a serious effort to attract its first ever national party convention.  A convention in Tampa-St. Pete could give Republicans a boost in the contest for Florida's 27 electoral votes.  Located at the western end of the pivotal I-4 corrider, Tampa sits on the eastern side of Tampa Bay and is linked to St. Petersburg in the west by the Gandy Bridge, which is almost three miles long.  Awarding the convention to Tampa-St. Pete could be seen as a reward to Jeb Bush for his work in tipping the state to his brother in 2000, however a convention here might also open up a re-hashing of 2000.  According to the Associated Press, twenty-one representatives from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area attended the May 1, 2002 meeting with RNC representatives in Washington, DC.  In a June 5, 2002 press conference, Tampa Mayor Dick A. Greco announced an 83-person host committee.  (Greco began his public service career when he was elected to the Tampa City Council in 1963 at age 29; he later left politics for the corporate world but returned and was re-elected to a fourth term as Mayor of Tampa in March 1999).  Tampa Bay hosted Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001.  In October 1996, St. Petersburg was the site of the vice presidential debate between Al Gore and Jack Kemp.

Copyright © 2002 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.