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York County tourism officials banking on DNC boost

None of the 6,000 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will be staying in York County.

But York County tourism officials are hoping that those who are housed here will be staying longer and spending as much, if not more, than convention delegates.

Rock Hill hotels will be used to house convention guests, said Joanne Peters, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention.

Mary Francis Morton, who is coordinating local efforts for the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said that media personnel, convention staff members and security staffs are likely to stay here and that they will stay longer than delegates.

"The economic boon could be a bigger one because we're getting different types of people," she said.

Officials had hoped that several of the state delegations would be housed in local hotels, giving York County some of the prestige - and media exposure - that goes with hosting a national convention.

The convention has contracts with several hotels in Rock Hill, but names of the hotels, or details of the contracts, have not been released.

Only one "full-service" hotel is under contract locally, "so our room block in Rock Hill did not fit our needs for delegate housing," Peters said. The convention needs full-service hotels to support delegates' needs for meeting spaces and catering, Peters said.

Delegates were assigned in clusters for easier transportation. Most of the delegates are assigned to hotels within a 16-mile radius of the Time-Warner Arena, a 20-minute drive to the arena, Peters said. Delegates in Concord, N.C., the farthest point from the arena, are clustered around Lowe's Motor Speedway, site of several convention events. Delegates from eights states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are staying in Concord hotels.

The Concord hotels are barely within the 16-mile limit, but the travel time, even in the best of conditions, is 30 minutes. Rock Hill's hotels are 25 miles from the arena, but the travel time is 30 minutes or less to the arena.

Morton said they tried to convince the host convention committee of Rock Hill's accessibility, but without success.

Convenience was a primary factor, said Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

The South Carolina delegation of 62 delegates, five alternates, staff and families has been assigned the Courtyard by Marriott off Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte. The hotel is scheduled to open in March. The room rate for the convention is $299 a night, according to the S.C. Democratic Party. The convention rate is about twice the regular rate that is posted on Marriott's website.

When the Democrats met in Chicago, hotel rooms were 30 to 40 minutes from the convention site. At the Los Angeles convention, hotel rooms were an hour away, he said. In Charlotte rooms are much closer.

"We've very happy with our hotel," Harpootlian said.

Harpootlian said the hotel will be easily accessible for those delegates who don't want to stay in Charlotte but would rather commute, such as those from York County.

He said the South Carolina delegation did not consider staying in South Carolina.

Lonnie Randolph Jr., president of the South Carolina NAACP, said the group's economic sanctions imposed on the state because of racial injustice - such as flying the Confederate flag on the Statehouse grounds - are still in effect. The sanctions are supported nationally by the NAACP, Randolph said. He encouraged those coming to the convention not to stay in South Carolina.

However, he said there are acceptable places in York County to stay and conduct business - businesses that "respect, and are decent, to all human beings," and support issues important to the NAACP. He did not provide a list of such places but said people could call the state's NAACP offices for assistance.

Randolph said the NAACP discussed the sanctions with convention officials and "the results speak for themselves."

Convention officials did not respond to questions from The Herald about the sanctions.