Austin backs out of race to host Democratic National Convention

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin will not host the 2016 Democratic National Convention after the mayor declined an offer to take part in the selection process.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the city lacked a venue large enough to meet the DNC’s requirements, and he was was not convinced Austin’s transportation options would meet the criteria outlined by the group.

“Our mass transit facilities are not as robust as they will be in the future,” Leffingwell said in a letter to the DNC’s chairwoman.

Earlier this month the mayor received a letter from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman for the DNC, gauging Austin’s interest in hosting the event.

“I would have a lot more confidence if we had an urban rail system built here to handle that requirement,” Leffingwell said at a news conference Wednesday. He stressed his answer was not ‘never’, but just ‘not right now.’

In order to host an event that draws an estimated 35,000 visitors, the DNC requires a certain amount of venue and hotel space – a requirement the mayor said the city could meet. Austin can accommodate guests with 30,000 hotel rooms in the metro area. The DNC asked for 18,000 hotel rooms.

According to the DNC letter, the host city needs to provide a venue which seats between 18,500 and 25,000 as well as 100 skyboxes. The Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus can hold up to 17,900 people. The next largest venue is the 360 Amphitheater at the Circuit of the Americas, which has room for 14,000.

While Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium can hold more than 100,000 people, the convention would be held in the summer, which could make it unpleasant to sit outside.

Austin isn’t the only Texas city being considered – Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio also received letters.

More than two dozen other cities across the country also received letters, including: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa.

One reason cities want to host the Democratic National Convention is the economic impact.

The chairwoman stated in her letter to the city that often times the host city has to invest between $50 and $60 million, but the payoff from the convention could be between $150 and $200 million into the city’s economy.

Leffingwell has made several pushes for mass transit expansion in Austin. He hopes an enhanced urban rail line and a new convention center will make Austin a player in these city competitions.

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