Nevada group seeks to draw GOP convention to Las Vegas in 2016



CARSON CITY — A newly formed Nevada group announced Tuesday that it will make a formal bid to bring the 2016 Republican National Convention to Las Vegas.

The effort by the Nevada Host Committee Inc. is supported by Nevada business and hospitality industry leaders as well as the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki will serve as chairman of the committee.

“Las Vegas is the number one convention destination in North America,” Krolicki said. “We do it better than anyone else in the country. We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for Las Vegas and all of Nevada.”

Salt Lake City and Kansas City, Mo., are also interested in luring the convention.

A decision on where the convention will be held is likely to come next year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval tweeted his support for the effort, saying he “strongly supports” bringing the convention to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas hosted more than 21,000 conventions with 5 million attendees in 2012 alone. It has been the No. 1 convention destination in North America for 19 years in a row. With nearly 150,000 hotel rooms, Las Vegas could have hosted all the attendees of the Tampa GOP Convention in Florida inside a one-mile radius and within a mile of the airport.

The Nevada Host Committee will also be led by Jack St. Martin, who will serve as executive director. St. Martin has held several prominent positions with the Republican National Committee where he has worked for five different chairmen. He served as the chief operating officer of the Faith and Freedom Coalition nationally and directed field efforts for the Christian Coalition. In 2012, he was instrumental in bringing the CNN-sponsored Republican presidential primary debate to Las Vegas.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this effort,” St. Martin said. “Las Vegas makes perfect sense for the GOP Convention. Las Vegas knows how to host something of this magnitude and Nevada’s diverse demographics make total sense for the GOP to come here.”

Dan Schwartz, finance chairman for the Nevada State Republican Party, said in an interview in August that several hurdles will have to be cleared to win the convention, including a local fundraising commitment that will amount to tens of millions of dollars.

The Thomas & Mack Center needs improvements as well if the convention is to come to Las Vegas, he said.

There is also the question of whether the city can convince the Republican National Committee that Las Vegas, with its reputation for gambling, drinking and adult-themed attractions, can provide the image the party is looking for in 2016, Schwartz said.

The estimated local financial commitment would be in the $55 million range, he said. Other funding would come from the federal level, bringing the total financial commitment to about $125 million.

But the Thomas & Mack on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus remains a stumbling block, Schwartz said. It is inadequate in its current condition to host the premier events of a national convention, and at least $10 million probably would have to be spent to make it usable, Schwartz said. The arena has 30 luxury suites, but 80 would be needed for the convention, he said.