CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With an expected 50,000 visitors in Charlotte for the 2020 Republican National Convention, there's a lot of planning to do.
The RNC estimates those visitors will spend $100 million to $200 million. August 2020 seems so far away but host committee CEO John Lassiter says playing for the RNC is well underway.
"We have to raise about $72 million," Lassiter said. "We have to work through a wide variety of issues that face the community."
Raising that money was one of the biggest issues for Charlotte when the Queen City hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The Democrats didn't raise enough, meaning Duke shareholders had to shell out millions because the DNC committee chair was the head of Duke.
"We started early and we tried to avoid some of the decisions they made and learned from that," Lassiter said.
If you were here for the DNC, you know there's a lot to work through. For example, is security a different approach to the RNC than the DNC?
"Security has changed," Lassiter said. "There's more terrorism and more cybersecurity issues, so a lot of effort to beef things up to anticipate that."
Another big issue for Charlotte businesses is how to deal with uptown on lockdown.
"I think businesses, depending on who you are, it will be good news, bad news," Lassiter said. "Hospitality, event planning, those businesses will do fabulous. If you're a larger business with folks in center city, [you] have to figure out where people are going to work."
But he says the hassle is worth it.
"At the end of the day we want to shine the light on our city and talk about why Charlotte is a great place to work and spend some time," he said.
Even 16 months out, restaurants in the Charlotte area are already getting calls about bookings for the week of the convention.
"We're working closely with a few people, can't name them because it's confidential, but we're in the contracting phrase," said Andy Carlson, who's in charge of all food and beverage at Angeline's restaurant and popular rooftop bar Merchant and Trade. "Gonna be a bunch of people who haven't been here before and Charlotte can showcase itself."
Lassiter also thinks public opinion is coming around to embracing the idea of the convention.
"I think there's been a softening from the concerns that came out last summer and people realize this is something really good for our city.
"Hotels will be full. Opportunity to showcase who we are is gonna be a great thing for Charlotte, North Carolina."
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