Denver: Democrats could draw 50,000 |

Denver: Democrats could draw 50,000

George Merritt
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Organizers of the Democratic National Convention have ratcheted up the number of people they expect to come to Denver this August by more than 40 percent, to about 50,000, because of overwhelming interest.

Local and national officials had been planning on some 35,000 delegates and journalists for the convention ” making an educated guess based on past conventions.

But this week, members of the convention committee said they expect that number to be closer to 50,000.

“Based on the interest we’ve seen really across the board from media, bloggers, allied organizations and people from all over the country that just want to be in Denver to be part of this historic event, we do expect it will be higher than we initially estimated,” said Natalie Wyeth, a spokeswoman for the committee.

The number of people attending caucuses and voting in primaries has been unprecedented this election cycle. By February, convention organizers had been inundated by requests from more than 25,000 people hoping to volunteer.

Convention organizers credit the convention’s potential to be a historic event given a presidential race without an incumbent and the certainty that Democrats will nominate either their first black or first female candidate.

“It definitely reflects everything we are hearing,” Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee spokesman Chris Lopez said of the new numbers. “It’s not your typical convention. This is definitely going to be one for the history books.”

City officials said they are relying on convention organizers for the estimated number of participants, but they hope the increase will mean a larger economic boon for Denver and Colorado than they first anticipated. Estimates for the region’s financial gain exceed $150 million.

“I think more people will bring a stronger economic impact to us,” said Katherine Archuleta, the mayor’s convention liaison said. “That’s good news.”

Still, the increase puts more pressure on the region to accommodate the influx. Denver had to overcome questions about its ability to accommodate the convention when 35,000 attendees were expected. The convention committee reserved about 17,000 hotel rooms for delegates, journalists and others.

“We are doing everything we can to accommodate to the best of our ability the unprecedented interest in this convention,” Wyeth said. “We cannot accommodate everyone in our block of rooms.”

Wyeth said the area has other hotel rooms, but they are outside the convention’s control.

“We anticipate many people will come and stay with friends and family,” she said.

Archuleta said the increase should not affect security preparations.

“It doesn’t make much of a difference to us because we are planning the same events,” Archuleta said. “The (Democratic National Convention Committee) really is the group working on the hotels and making sure that their delegates and other VIPs have the rooms.”

Denver has not hosted a national party convention in 100 years, but city officials say the city has shown it can host high-volume, high-profile events.

“We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again,” Archuleta said.

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