Mayor Doug Echols said he hopes Rock Hill venues can host delegates and meetings associated with the Democratic National Convention when it comes to Charlotte.
"Now that the decision has been made, we should definitely market ourselves as a location for people to visit and hold some of these meetings," Echols said Tuesday.
With a dozen hotels along Interstate 77, York County can promote itself as an affordable place to stay during convention week, said Dilip Patel, a local hotel manager and hospitality industry advocate.
Organizers picked Charlotte for the 2012 convention over St. Louis, Minneapolis and Cleveland.
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More than 35,000 delegates, journalists and other visitors are expected to attend the convention, filling area hotels to capacity. Patel said it would make sense for tour buses to run loops between Galleria-area hotels and convention sites.
"I'm sure the rates are all going up everywhere," Patel said. "We may go up a little, but not as much as if you were in Charlotte."
Boon for hotels?
Every hotel room in York County could be occupied for the peak of the convention, said Bennish Brown, director of the county's Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Brown's agency shared hotel numbers with convention boosters last year as Charlotte made its pitch to Democratic bigwigs.
"We have a chance to highlight this part of South Carolina," said Brown, adding, "The ease to travel from here to there, without a lot of congestion, will be a selling point for us."
The Baxter Hood Center is the largest meeting and banquet facility in York County with 16 meeting rooms and 40,000 square feet of space.
Fort Mill's Anne Springs Close Dairy Barn can host parties for up to 400 people while Carowinds offers a 13,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, to name some examples of available venues.
The state NAACP's tourism boycott of South Carolina should not have an effect, said Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill NAACP.
"The convention is not headquartered in South Carolina," he said. "People can choose to stay where they want."
Spratt: Democrats must compete in South
Former U.S. Rep. John Spratt praised the selection of Charlotte. The York Democrat made phone calls and wrote a letter to the Democratic National Committee at the request of Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, a friend and colleague.
In 2008, President Obama was the first Democratic candidate to win North Carolina since Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.
"It's an astute choice," Spratt said. "It's an indication Democrats are not giving up on the south and are serious about trying to strengthen their foothold here. It takes time for this to happen."
Recalling his experience at the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall said he was amazed at the number of delegates who stayed outside the city.
"We had folks staying 20 to 30 miles from the convention location," McCall said. "There just weren't enough hotels."
But the crowds might not extend to Rock Hill. When Denver hosted the Democratic convention in 2008, few attendees made the 28-mile drive to and from Boulder, said Sarah Huntley, a city spokeswoman for Boulder who checked in with local businesses.
"After talking to them, I would say that the City of Boulder did not notice a significant impact that can be attributed to the convention," said Huntley. "We did see some increase in terms of daytime shopping and tourism, but not much in terms of overnight accommodations.
"Most of the events were centered on downtown Denver, and it is our sense that many delegates stayed in that area."
The occasion carried special meaning for Echols, a Democrat, though city elections are nonpartisan. Echols is active in the National League of Cities, the nation's largest organization representing local governments.
Both Spratt and the mayor said they plan to attend convention festivities.
Echols remembered watching his friend, the late Charlotte City Councilwoman Susan Burgess, lobby Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine during the selection process. Burgess died last year following a battle with cancer.
"I happened to be in a meeting where she gave Gov. Kaine an application," Echols recalled. "She handed it to him directly and told him she wanted the convention in Charlotte. I'm sorry she did not live to hear this announcement."
Brown, the local tourism chief, plans to talk with local elected officials about ways to market York County amenities to convention-goers.
"Those opportunities are there," he said. "The challenge before us is how well we take advantage."