Special Events

Minneapolis gets GOP vote for 2008 convention

The event industry in Minneapolis-St. Paul is gearing up for banner business in light of the decision last week by the Republican National Committee to host its 2008 convention there. The slew of parties--both official and unofficial--that political conventions traditionally bring means that event planners, venues and suppliers should have "more business than they know what to do with," says one source close to the situation.

The convention will run Sept. 1-4, 2008, at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild hockey team. According to estimates from CVB Meet Minneapolis, the convention could draw as many as 45,000 attendees using 20,000 hotels rooms each night at a total of 95 properties.

CALLS COMING IN

The local event industry is already gearing up for action.

"We have had some calls already" from potential clients, notes Becky Harris, CSEP, with Minneapolis-based Event Lab, "which surprised us that they would come so soon." To get ready, "we will add inventory between now and the convention, especially when it comes to anything that will translate to a red-white-blue theme--such as draping, linen and tabletop decor."

"We will be bringing in more equipment and refining some of our packages in preparation for the upcoming convention," says Katy Riddle Tepley, director of catering sales for Wolfgang Puck Catering at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. "We are not sure what to expect exactly, but based on the past, we expect an increase in both daytime and evening business for the duration of the convention. Typically they are higher end 'wow' events for conventions such as this, so the average guest check total will probably be 10 percent to 20 percent higher than our usual guest check average." Her company helped pitch the city to the Republican National Committee by hosting a reception for 300 guests in its Skyline room.

As yet the Democratic National Committee has not announced the site for its 2008 convention, slated for late August. Edina, Minn.-based Apres Party and Tent Rental did several parties for the DNC when Minneapolis was courting the committee, and was on the committee's preferred vendor list. "We are very disappointed they are not coming" to Minneapolis, notes Apres president Charlie Feldbaum. "They just did not react quickly enough."

TWO PARTIES' PARTIES?

But event planner Ryan Hanson, with Minneapolis-based Menttium Corp., sees a tremendous opportunity still open for the opposing parties to site their conventions in the same place. "The Democrats are idiots if they do not choose Minneapolis as their host city," he tells Special Events Magazine. "Nothing would be better than that sort of political rivalry, playing out in historically rival 'brother' cities on the banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of the nation for the 2008 election."

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