State Republican conclave spotlights Tinley Park
By steve metsch firstname.lastname@example.org June 7, 2012 9:38PM
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:05AM
Don’t try to book a hotel room at the Holiday Inn in Tinley Park the next few nights.
Rooms are “definitely” sold out, a front desk clerk said, thanks to the Illinois Republican Convention that’s expected to bring about 1,000 delegates today to the Tinley Park Convention Center at Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street.
Other hotels also are experiencing solid sales, said Jim Garrett, president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau. Gas stations, restaurants and other retailers also will benefit, he said.
“We’re very excited about it. And this would have never happened had the expansion of the convention center not taken place,” he said.
Garrett’s “very conservative estimate” is the convention could bring an extra $215,000 or so to the Tinley Park area. That’s using an estimate of each delegate spending $75 a day and staying two days.
Using a different estimating tool, Ivan Baker, director of economic development for the village, said the delegates could bring in around $942,000 if they spend $314 daily over three days.
Either way you cut it, the village and area stand to gain in terms of income and reputation.
“The greatest thing about this is the exposure it provides for the Tinley Park Convention Center and the Southland. There will be a lot of delegates looking around and thinking, ‘This is pretty cool’,” Garrett said.
He estimates 500 room nights will be created by the convention.
“It’s the same objective of every hotel. We want (guests) to say this was the greatest experience and we can’t wait to come back,” Garrett said.
The convention allows delegates to hammer out a platform, and generate enthusiasm for a party that is trying to be more inclusive by having more minority candidates, said Pat Rea, a longtime Republican and Tinley Park’s village clerk.
Republican delegates will meet in various committee meetings for most of Friday. They’ll hear from candidates running for current offices, or expected to run in coming years. They’ll hear from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in the keynote speech at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar said.
Delegates who were elected in the Republican state primary will gather to discuss their plans for the national convention in Tampa, Claar said.
“I think (Republican presidential candidate) Mitt Romney has a very strong chance to win (the Oval Office), frankly, and it gets stronger every day,” Claar said.
Having the convention in Tinley Park “is good for the village because a lot of visitors will go home and talk it up to their friends,” said Claar, who chaired the convention selection committee. He said he was “blown away” when he toured the center.
So was Sean Morrison, committeeman of the Palos Township Republican Organization when he’s not running his own security company.
Morrison looks forward to discussing the issue of selecting members of the state central committee.
“It used to be open voting. Now it’s by the party itself. I intend to lobby that it should be on the ballot (for voters to decide),” he said.
In a letter to the editor, he wrote the system is “a denial of Illinois Republicans’ basic voting rights.”
A prior commitment keeps another Republican, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, from the convention, but he’s happy it’s here.
“Having it here shows the village has the facilities and the know-how to handle these kind of conventions,” Zabrocki said Thursday.
“It’s not only a boon for us, but for the entire area. Everyone gains from having this here. People have to eat, they have to stay somewhere and they have fill up their gas tanks,” he said.
Unlike Chicago’s recent NATO gathering, a strong police presence is unlikely, village manager Scott Niehaus said. He noted the convention center has handled recent high school and college graduations, attracting up to 4,000 people, with no problems.
More information about the convention is at www.weareillinois.org.