Xcel: From concert venue to RNC hub

  • Article by: CORY WEAVER
  • Updated: July 4, 2008 - 11:04 PM

With the biggest event the Xcel Energy Center has ever hosted on the horizon, the GOP will transform St. Paul's major sports and concert venue for the Sept. 1-4 Republican National Convention. The costs will not be low, and it will not be easy. Here's what they face.


Between July 21 and August 31, several hundred electricians, carpenters and other workers will transform the X into a venue that can hold 45,000 visitors. Suites will be converted to news media boxes from which 15,000 journalists will broadcast from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Chairs will be set up on the floor for the 2,380 delegates while 2,227 alternates will be positioned off to the side and in nearby areas.

A stage and podium will be built for speakers, including presidential candidate John McCain, whose acceptance speech will aim to leave the delegates energized for the final two months of the campaign.

Approximately 200 truckloads of materials will be delivered to the Xcel Center for the transformation. After the convention ends, the workers have two weeks to put the X back to normal for events scheduled there as early as the beginning of October.

What will it look like?

When visitors enter, they will see plenty of entertainment on the concourse, although GOP officials are still hush-hush on details. Most concession stands will be closed because the food will be catered. In the rafters, approximately 125,000 balloons will be poised to drop when the party announces its presidential nominee.

During a walk-through of the Xcel with journalists in June, Matt Burns, the GOP's communications director, said the scene will excite convention-goers. "The hair on your neck almost starts to stand up," he said.

To convert a suite to a news booth, crews will put up temporary walls, cover existing cabinets or appliances, and build tailor-made anchor booths based on instructions from each news network.

Outside the arena, the city of St. Paul will be responsible for security as well as controlling traffic flow and monitoring several thousand protesters.

Where do 45,000 people go for a bathroom break?

In an e-mail, Burns said, "We are currently working on a restroom inventory to ensure that all guests have access to restroom facilities."

How much will it cost?

When it comes to costs, local donors have most of it covered. Party faithful who want to see the event succeed and their party win the presidential election donated money to the convention. A grant from the Federal Election Committee paid for the rest of the costs. When taxpayers filed their taxes, they had the option to pay an extra $3 to the parties, and a portion of the money went to this grant.


    • 45,000 attendees, including 15,000 journalists

    • 16,000 hotel rooms for attendees

    • 8,000 to 10,000 community volunteers

    • 2,380 delegates from 50 states and 6 territories

    • 2,227 alternate delegates

    • 200 truckloads of materials

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