When I learned earlier today that Netroots Nation 2012 was going to be in Providence, I joked that I would be holding a party at my house.
On second thought, maybe there is more to the selection of Providence than meets the eye.
There is no real logic to Providence for a national convention (sorry, but it’s true). While Green Airport is pretty good, a lot of people are going to find themselves changing planes to get there, unless they fly into Logan Airport in Boston an hour away.
There may be a political angle to help two die-hard supporters of the netroots base.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) touted the selection of Providence, as reported by The Boston Globe, as a major boost for the Providence economy, with as many as 3000 participants. Cicilline is in deep electoral trouble because of the mess he left behind when he was Mayor of Providence, and Whitehouse is vulnerable depending upon who is the Republican nominee. So bringing home some Netroots bacon to Providence is a help for them, and also will be a good fundraising vehicle.
But then I thought some more about the size of the convention, and the limited Providence convention space and hotel space downtown. And maybe there is something else going on here, an attempt to hide from the competing RightOnline convention which shadows Netroots Nation to great publicity and fanfare.
The Providence Convention Center is the only professional-sized convention space in Providence. It looks like Netroots Nation already has booked the Convention Center. I have been in that Convention Center many times and it is barely big enough to hold a major convention like Netroots Nation.
I doubt Netroots Nation would have announced the location if they had not already booked the major hotels, as well. There also are only a handful of major hotels downtown. The Providence Visitors Bureau says there are 2200 hotel rooms within a mile of the Convention Center (I’m skeptical that there are that many), which means that almost all of the hotel rooms will be taken up by the Netroots Nation plus normal hotel traffic.
If that is the case, then RightOnline, which always holds its convention in the same city as Netroots Nation, likely will be locked out of the Providence market in substantial part, if not totally.
I have reached out to the Convention Center and hotels to confirm if they are locked up. I’ll keep you informed.
If by some chance RightOnline does squeeze into Providence at the same time as Netroots Nation, it is going to put people right on top of each other. Oh boy, that would be great.
Update: The NY Times says there were 2400 people at Netroots and 1500 at Right Online. Providence is not big enough for the two of them.