If Lake Placid could host the Winter Olympics, then Milwaukee can host the DNC

Twice, most recently in 1980, the tiny village of Lake Placid, New York, which has fewer people than my hometown of Westville, Illinois, hosted the Olympic Winter Games. The Winter Olympics are a massive undertaking, with multiple different sports venues needed and a necessity for a relatively large spectator capacity at each venue, not to mention provisions for Olympic broadcast rights holders from many different countries.

As Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez is about to select a host city for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DemCon), there is some concern that Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of two cities (the other being Houston, Texas) bidding to host the 2020 DemCon, may not be a large enough city to host the DemCon:

Indeed, the main concern some raised was the city’s capacity to fund and house the convention, since Milwaukee is considerably smaller than many host cities of the past.

“What matters to me is, are there enough hotel rooms? OK? Do we have people driving 50 miles to the convention center? … These conventions where you’re spending three hours in the car every day are just brutal,” said Elaine Kamarck, a DNC member from Massachusetts.  “Milwaukee is just not that big a city. … In North Carolina (in 2012), Charlotte really couldn’t handle us. That for me is the issue.”

The related question for some DNC members is whether Milwaukee has the “amenities” of the other cities.  

Wisconsin Democratic chair Martha Laning said Milwaukee’s bid has met the criteria for hotels and financial backing that the DNC has asked for.

In modern times, the DemCon is typically held in an arena that is home to an NBA team and/or an NHL team. NBA and NHL arenas typically have seating capacity for somewhere around 20,000 spectators, plus or minus a few thousand. The Fiserv Forum, the home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, would be the expected venue of the DemCon should Milwaukee be selected as the host city. The Fiserv Forum’s listed seating capacity is 17,500. I seriously doubt that there would be more than 25,000 people descend on Milwaukee, including delegates, DNC officials, spectators, and credentialed press, if Milwaukee is selected to host the DemCon. The DemCon is not as massive of an undertaking as the Olympic Games or even events that typically draw a six-figure number of spectators, like the Indianapolis 500 or the Kentucky Derby.

There are a couple of major logistical issues with the DemCon. The first is media, as there is no exclusive U.S. broadcast rights holder for the DemCon like there typically is for a sporting event (the DNC selling exclusive broadcast rights for the DemCon may violate campaign finance laws, but I’m not sure about that) virtually every U.S. national radio, broadcast television, and cable/satellite television network that either has a news division or is devoted to news typically sends a full credentialed contingent to the DemCon and broadcasts at least some coverage of the convention to a national audience. The typical practice is for luxury suites at the venue of the convention to be converted into studios for the various networks broadcasting the convention. The second is lodging, although the Milwaukee area meets the DNC’s own guidelines for hotel capacity.

Long story short, if Lake Placid could host the Winter Olympics, then Milwaukee is more than capable of hosting the Democratic National Convention.