How Cleveland and Philadelphia Are Gearing Up for the Conventions

PHOTO: The Cleveland skyline, July 7, 2010, left, and the Philadelphia skyline, Nov. 15, 2015. Mark Duncan/AP Photo; Paul Spinelli/AP Photo
The Cleveland skyline, July 7, 2010, left, and the Philadelphia skyline, Nov. 15, 2015.

The Republican and Democratic National Conventions are less than four months away, and it’s not just the candidates who are getting ready.

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Both host cities are sprucing up their streets and stepping up their security in advance of the nominating conventions. But the prospect of hosting tens of thousands of delegates, elected officials, media, volunteers and curious visitors is no small undertaking.

Here’s a look at how Cleveland and Philadelphia are gearing up for the big events:


Cleveland is on track to host one of the most memorable GOP conventions in decades. But the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World began preparations for the big event more than a year before the real prospect of a contested convention.

The city scored the Republican National Convention in July 2014, beating out Dallas as host. Since then, the convention’s organizers, led by the RNC Committee on Arrangements with the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, say they have been “hard at work.”

“The vision from the very day we were awarded the convention [has been] providing the 50,000-plus visitors with the best experience” of Cleveland, Emily Lauer, Cleveland 2016 Host Committee spokeswoman, told ABC News.

Less than 100 days out, the organizers say they “are absolutely on track to get this done.”

“I feel extremely confident in where our community is in the planning for the convention,” Host Committee President and CEO David Gilbert said at a news conference Friday.

The Quicken Loans Arena, typically the domain of NBA great LeBron James, is on its way to becoming a delegate hall, according to Jeff Larson, CEO of the Committee on Arrangements. Come July 18, it will have its seats removed, its suites converted, and it will be ready to see the final contest between the Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich campaigns.

The Host Committee has raised $55.5 million of its $64 million obligation to the Republican National Committee, Gilbert said. They’ve enlisted 7,400 of 8,000 volunteers to serve as “regional ambassadors” and give a “human perspective” to the city, Lauer added.

Cleveland has seen a $3.5 billion investment in visitor infrastructure in the past five years, according to Lauer, which has helped the organizers secure more than 16,000 hotel rooms across downtown and the suburbs. Lauer told ABC that a “few key projects have been accelerated” in preparation of the event. They’ve also seen more than 2,000 businesses register as part of the convention’s supplier guide.

Perhaps the biggest unknown, however, is security.

Despite increased chatter of a contested convention and the specter of violence, the planners are adamant that they are making adequate preparations.

“The police department, the Secret Service, the other local county and state authorities are on top of this thing,” Steve King, chairman of the Committee on Arrangements, said. “From almost day one, when you have 17 candidates you always have to make plans and always as part of our planning process we have contingencies and had some since day one.”

As a National Security Special Event, the U.S. Secret Service has the lead on arrangements. The convention will have a number of Secret Service provisions, including a security perimeter around the arena. The bounds of this perimeter have not yet been determined. Last month, the Secret Service nixed a petition to allow the open-carry of guns inside of the venue.

The federal government designated a $50 million grant to Cleveland in December for convention security. City officials said they planned to use $30 million of the grant on personnel and the remaining $20 million on equipment. Last month, the city began seeking bids for 2,000 sets of riot gear. They also plan to hire an extra 5,000 police officers to work during the three-day convention.


After an extensive, year-long search process, Philadelphia was chosen by the Democratic National Committee in February 2015 to host the 47th Democratic National Convention, beating out Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio, for the role. The Wells Fargo Center, normally home to the Philadelphia 76’ers, will be transformed into the convention epicenter from July 25 to 28.

The City of Brotherly Love is preparing for some 50,000 attendees. The logistical planning is a collaboration between the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC), the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee, the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a number of tourism organizations. The DNCC has received bids from hundreds of businesses and vendors to provide services ranging from construction and computer services to catering and merchandise.

According to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNCC intended to provide at least 35 percent of convention contracts to diverse companies: those owned by minorities, women, veterans and-or members of the LGBT or disabled communities. In a statement to ABC News, the DNCC said they have awarded four of five major contracts to “100 percent minority and/or women owned businesses.”

The planning collaborators hope to expand the scope of the convention beyond the Wells Fargo Center. According to the DNCC, they have coordinated a number of workshops aimed at helping local small businesses and restaurants increase their visibility during the event. Spokesman Kyle Anderson told ABC News that DNCC CEO Rev. Leah Daughtry and other leaders “have met with school groups, faith-based organizations, political stakeholders, our partners in the labor community, Philadelphia’s local LGBT community and a host of others.”

The DNCC has thus far booked more than 15,000 hotels rooms for delegates. They have also recruited more than 7,000 of the desired 10,000 volunteers to help with tasks ranging from greeting guests to helping with social media posts, according to the Philadelphia Host Committee.

Like the GOP convention, the DNC is also a National Special Security Event with Secret Service at the helm of planning. The city of Philadelphia, like Cleveland, also applied to receive a $50 million federal grant for security personnel and equipment. The DNCC declined to say whether the slight prospect of a contested convention has altered its security plans.