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DNC: So near, yet so far away

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Given the invisible news barrier that often exists somewhere north of Monument Pass, here's a headline from April that apparently didn't find much traction in Colorado Springs.

Next year, the Democratic National Convention is coming to Denver from Aug. 25 to 28, which translates to Monday through Thursday of the week before Labor Day.

It's a huge coup for the Mile High City, bringing an economic impact that could approach $200 million. Boston calculated a $163.2 million benefit from the 2004 convention.

The dates are perfect, with everyone leaving in time to make room for the Labor Day weekend tourist influx that wraps up the summer season.

It'll officially launch the home stretch of the 2008 presidential campaign. The world will be watching as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson or somebody else takes the stage along with a running mate.

Meanwhile, if the early scuttlebutt pans out, Colorado Springs will be snoozing. And losing.

Granted, the 7,000 delegates, along with family members and additional contingents from each state, will want to stay as close as possible to the actual site, Denver's Pepsi Center. But the host committee is estimating that convention-related visitors, including hordes of media, will fill up 35,000 hotel rooms. A large majority would set up for an entire week or longer, starting before the convention.

So far, Colorado Springs is not making a move to share in that windfall. It's as if the convention were in Los Angeles or New York.

This came up during a recent conversation with Jan Martin, newest member of the Colorado Springs City Council. Despite the fact that council positions are nonpartisan, Martin, it must be noted, is a lifelong Republican.

Within days of Martin taking office, the announcement came that Denver would host the Democrats in 2008. Soon, Martin inquired about Colorado Springs' plans for grabbing a chunk of that economic impact. Surely, she thought (as others have) that many non-delegates which could include everyone from corporate sponsors and lobbyists to media and other Democratic supporters might be interested in spending time in the Springs. They might even choose to stay down here and commute, whether driving or riding buses.

Martin found out differently. She discovered the city has no desire to carve out a niche for this occasion.

Let's contrast that with a comment from Gov. Bill Ritter on the convention's Web site: "The convention will have a significant economic impact not just on Denver, but it will have a ripple effect across the entire state and the West. This will be great for Denver and great for Colorado."

But apparently not for Colorado Springs.

The good news, however, is that it's not too late.

This doesn't mean our fair city has to undress and have casual sex with the Democrats to attract their attention, though that would be worth paying a lot to watch. It could be as simple as offering typical alternatives.

One would be offering tours for early convention arrivals. We could run buses from Denver to destinations including the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Air Force Academy and U.S. Olympic Complex (perhaps even NORAD), and the usual other stops (Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, etc.). Anyone wanting to spend a night might book a room at The Broadmoor, Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort, Antlers Hilton, The Cliff House or another worthy place.

A second option would be focusing on media, many of whom will be on tighter budgets. Already, the word has been put out that media accommodation choices will be forthcoming late in the year. Why not make a concerted effort to lure even some of the larger groups, such as network production crews, to Colorado Springs? Setting up charter buses would be easy. Any media staying in the Springs would have the opportunity to check out our attractions.

Instead, so far anyway, Colorado Springs appears oblivious. We'll just burrow in for the week, circle the wagons to keep out those liberal Democrats, and let Denver have all of the economic treasure.

Meanwhile, one can't help but wonder ... what if the Republican convention was coming to Denver? What would the Springs be doing then?

The guess here is, we'd already have our clothes off, waiting in bed.

routon@csindy.com

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