DALLAS (AP) — Two elephants waving their trunks, cheerleaders and indoor fireworks greeted Republican National Committee members on Thursday as they visited Dallas during the last of four trips to cities competing to host the 2016 Republican convention.
Dallas officials touted the city’s experience with major events, ties to the GOP and $45 million in pledges and state funding so far. But they also added several flourishes to the presentation.
The biggest was the elephants, the symbol of the Republican Party. Under a light rain, the pachyderms stood at the end of a red carpet leading into the American Airlines Center, the downtown Dallas arena that would host a convention.
“I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I was going to pet a couple of elephants on the way into the arena, but that was certainly a nice touch,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus laughed later. “Only in Dallas would something like that happen.”
Priebus and other committee members were shown a video of President Ronald Reagan telling the 1984 GOP convention in Dallas that he wished for a victory “the size of the heart of Texas.” That followed with singing and a balloon drop as fireworks went off above the arena’s court.
Priebus stressed that while he enjoyed the show, the party would eventually have to make “a business decision.”
Dallas is competing with Denver, Cleveland and Kansas City.
Bid officials here have a $25 million guarantee from Texas’ major events fund, which issues loans repaid through local sales taxes and other levies. They also have obtained $20 million in private donor pledges, and predict they can reach a $60 million target for local funding.
City officials think the convention would be a boon to hotels and local business as well as Dallas’ national reputation.
“Ultimately, the spirit is the thing that is going to be tiebreaker, but you’ve got to make sure you get the tie, and I think we’re explaining it well,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.
One potential hurdle is that Dallas likely could not host the convention starting on June 27, 2016, one of two potential dates Priebus mentioned Thursday. The Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars want to hold the arena through late June in case either team advances deep into the playoffs.
AT&T Stadium, the behemoth 5-year-old home of the Dallas Cowboys, could host one of the convention’s four days or other events, but RNC officials have ruled it out as a site for the entire convention.
Priebus acknowledged the issue but said there were several factors that would determine the ultimate winner.
“If I could pick the same place and the same venue for the winning city, I would choose the June date, if everything was equal,” Priebus said. “But it’s not equal.”
The RNC is expected to make its selection in August.
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