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Not even a stop at Stein Eriksen Lodge could land the Republican convention

Not even a stop at Stein Eriksen Lodge, long a place to impress convention organizers considering Utah as a locale for their event, could secure the deal with the Republican National Committee.

A GOP committee scouting sites to hold the 2012 Republican National Convention on Wednesday recommended the political extravaganza take place in Tampa, Fla., choosing a bid in a prized swing state over Salt Lake City. Phoenix was also in contention. The Republicans are expected to formally endorse the committee’s recommendation later.

The organizers of the Salt Lake City bid had seen Park City as being crucial to the overall package offered to the Republicans. Park City would have played a significant role in housing people traveling to Utah had the convention been awarded to Salt Lake City, and the trickle-down effect of the lodging had been expected to boost business in restaurants, nightclubs and shops in Park City.

Bruce Hough, a Republican National Committeeman who lives in Park City and had been closely involved in the bidding, said in an interview Tampa had been seen as the front-runner.

"We were pragmatic. We were realistic," Hough said, adding, "It was really a sense of great, now we can move on."

Hough traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Republican meetings this week. He compared vying for the convention to a city in the running for an Olympics, saying several bids are commonly needed before an event is awarded to a city.

The convention is scheduled the week of Aug. 27, 2012.

Park City leaders and tourism officials had courted the Republicans, putting together a bloc of hotel rooms and hosting a GOP delegation that traveled to Utah in April to review the Salt Lake City bid.

The Park City-area lodging industry is likely disappointed with the Tampa decision. The Salt Lake bidders said 35,000 people are expected to attend the convention, and the bid package included approximately 3,900 hotel rooms in the Park City area, approximately one-fifth of the 18,000 rooms that were part of the bid.

Room rates would have been higher than those normally charged during that time of year, but they probably would not have soared to the rates charged during the busiest times of the ski season, the lodging industry had said. Certain state delegations would have been assigned to the Park City lodges, and the places would have also attracted journalists, political activists and other convention-goers.

The delegation that visited Utah in April stopped at Stein Eriksen Lodge and went on a bus tour of Park City. A scheduled stop at the Utah Olympic Park was canceled due to bad weather.

After the visit, Park City people who met with the Republican delegation, which included the party chairman, Michael Steele, said the convention organizers had been impressed.

Mayor Dana Williams met with Steele and the others in the delegation during the April trip, saying afterward he touted Park City as a tourist-friendly place. Others who spoke during the Park City visit included Bob Wheaton, who is the president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort, Park City Chamber/Bureau head Bill Malone and Olympic champion bobsledder Steve Holcomb.

Williams said afterward the Republicans had indicated many of the convention-goers would want to stay in Park City if Salt Lake City was selected. Hough said at the time Park City "did ourselves proud" and Steele told him that he "loved it" in Park City.

The chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, Henry Glasheen, said it would have been nice for the convention to be held in Salt Lake City, saying the GOP has momentum and 2010 has been a "banner year" for the party so far in Utah, with impressive turnout in the local and statewide party conventions.

Glasheen, who has not been to a national political convention before, said the event could have spurred volunteers to sign up and provided a chance for people to see the goings-on surrounding a convention in person.

"It’s kind of like the difference between seeing U2 in concert and seeing the video come out," Glasheen said.


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