Downtown Cleveland awaits word on convention impact

CLEVELAND -- The City of Cleveland has longer than normal time to get ready for the Republican National Convention.

Republicans picked their site early.

Now the challenge is to use that time to prepare Northeast Ohio to handle the many challenges ahead.

After a Press Club of Cleveland panel discussion of the convention victory and coming agenda today, key players addressed a number of issues and prospects for long-term benefits.

The Convention, with its 50,000 visitors, will be like having a daily Cleveland Browns game for a week.

Downtown businesses are already being asked to consider flex-time and encouraging workers to take vacation around the convention.

A quick survey of workers found them accepting of changes and inconveniences.'

Vic Pascucci said, "You're going to have to make accommodations. Remember the films shooting here. The same thing, "

Barbara Dunlap said, "I'm okay with it. It will boost the economy, jobs, and all that fun stuff."

A number of downtown restaurants and night spots close to Quicken Loans Arena are worried about being shut out of their hoped-for windfall by being included in a locked-down security area . Those plans have not yet been made.

The city will try to maximize traffic for the greatest number of businesses possible.

Cleveland's convention hosting team says to think of inconveniences rather than problems.

Host Committee Chairman Terry Egger said, "It's 'pardon our dust,' if you will, for a little bit....You've got to remember we're fortunate to have this opportunity."

A convention planner said this is an extraordinary chance for Cleveland to tell its story and surmount the outdated burning-river, rustbelt impressions of the past.

Cleveland City Council approved a deal giving Republicans access to city buildings and sites, including City Hall, Public Hall, the malls, garages and FirstEnergy Stadium.

The city's also kicking in $2.5 million.

Councilman Mike Polensek and others are concerned the laser-like focus on the convention will monopolize time and money that might be spent on neighborhood projects. The city claims it won't.

"People in Cleveland neighborhoods have sacrificed for too long....We want to make sure it's a balancing act," he said.

Convention planners are being swamped with calls from businesses hoping to grab contracts or a piece of the convention action.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership's Joe Roman said specifics of business opportunities may not be available until early next year, He pledged maximum effort to involve as many local businesses as possible,.

"We are going to make sure we push it out. We're going to make sure we get people involved early, " he said.

Positively Cleveland's David Gilbert said negotiations for final contracts are continuing.

Republicans have yet to decide if it will be a late June or mid-July convention.

LeBron James' return home suddenly makes championship June basketball at The Q a more likely possibility.

Gilbert said, "Does LeBron play into the decision? We don't know. But it doesn't matter, because any date they choose, we'll be ready for the convention."

Hopefully, Greater Cleveland will be too.

Follow Tom Beres on Twitter: @TomBeres


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