Bob Dole and basketball may be just the prescription for a tired Republican next summer.
Kansas City this week learned that it is among the final four communities still being considered to host the 2016 GOP convention. And the leader of Lawrence's Convention and Visitors Bureau thinks Lawrence could benefit greatly from the event.
"Anytime you have been locked up in a hotel for too long, you are looking to get out and have a fun experience," said Fred Conboy, president and CEO of Destination Management Inc., the umbrella group for the Lawrence CVB. "We can offer that."
Specifically, Conboy thinks the Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's West Campus would be a must-see destination for many of the estimated 45,000 Republicans who would be in Kansas City.
"We won't wait to be contacted by Kansas City officials," Conboy said. "We'll reach out to them and put together some proposals of how we can help."
Allen Fieldhouse, the Booth Hall of Athletics, and the coming display of James Naismith's original rules of basketball all could be big attractions as well, Conboy said. He noted that the proposed convention site is the Sprint Center, which is adjacent to the College Basketball Experience, which is expected to highlight that the original rules of basketball are in Lawrence.
"Thousands of people could be immediately exposed to the idea that Lawrence is the cradle of basketball, and they could decide to drive over for a day or more," Conboy said.
Conboy said the area's Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area also may be interesting to convention visitors. Lecompton and the Territorial Capital were deeply tied to many of the debates during the days of Republican icon Abraham Lincoln.
Lawrence also could provide some help with hotel rooms. Kansas City has about 26,000 hotel rooms across the metro area, according to the website of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau. But only about 3,500 of them are in the downtown area near the Sprint Center. Hotel space has been mentioned as a potential drawback to the Kansas City plan.
With one new hotel under construction in downtown, Lawrence will have about 1,300 hotel rooms when the convention is held next summer. Conboy said a drive in from Lawrence would be as easy as from several other places in the metro area.
Dallas, Denver and Cleveland are the other three cities that have been named as finalists for the convention. The Associated Press reports that Dallas is seen as a leading contender, in part, because of its coalition of wealthy donors, ties to the Bush family and an oil industry that could provide tens of millions of dollars to cover convention expenses.