Coleman Says City Ready For Prime Time, Eyes National Political Convention

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UPDATED: Thursday February 20, 2014 3:05 PM

In the past year, central Ohio has hosted the Presidents Cup and the World Cup qualifier in soccer.  Next year Nationwide Arena will host the National Hockey League All Star Game, and nine NCAA championship tournaments.  And now Mayor Michael Coleman says Columbus is ready to host a national political convention.

"I want our city to land either the Democratic or the Republican National Convention in 2016," said Coleman.  "By submitting a competitive bid, we are sending a message to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world that Columbus is ready for prime time."

During his 15th State of the City address this week, Coleman said the money generated from a convention, combined with the prestige in hosting it, would be worth the effort.

"The Republican or Democratic National Convention would create an infusion of jobs, revenue and international recognition while injecting millions into our economy," said Coleman.  "And it would command the eyes of the world on the City of Columbus in a way that no other event could."

Brian Ross from Experience Columbus has been leading a local delegation of business and government officials to Washington, DC, to make a pitch for hosting a convention.

"Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the largest city in Ohio and a very vibrant and diverse city," said Ross.  "Typically you have the northern part of the state go Democratic, the southern part of the state go Republican and how Columbus goes, typically, is how Ohio goes."

Ross says if a convention is awarded to Columbus, upfront costs will be around $55 million.  He estimates revenue from the week of the convention at $150 million.

"We're definitely looking at this as economic development," said Ross.  "Not as much as the Republicans of Democrats but what benefits Columbus.  And it's an incredible economic opportunity."

Coleman says he's a lifelong Democrat, but he would welcome national Republicans to his city.

"I want our city to land either convention, whether the nominee on the stage at Nationwide Arena is Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin," said Coleman.  "Well, maybe not Sarah Palin," he joked.

Strategists from both political parties in Ohio agree that Columbus has a lot to offer.

"I think we have a shot," said Democratic strategist Dale Butland.  "Central Ohio is certainly due.  Ohio hasn't hosted a convention since 1936 when Republicans held one in Cleveland.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the Democrats here in 2016."

"I think Ohio has a great chance to bring a convention here to Ohio," said Katie Eagan from the Ohio Republican Party.  "If you were a national political party why wouldn't you want to bring your convention to the epicenter of every presidential election?"

Ross says that if Columbus makes the final GOP list, a 22 member committee will visit the area in early March. 

Other cities making bids include Chicago, Las Vegas,