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December 06, 2023 News

Republican National Convention hits major milestone with Fall Media Walkthrough

There's a lot of Republican red inside Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum these days.

"Welcome to Milwaukee! 2024 Republican National Convention," read white text on red screens beaming down on the arena floor Thursday as hundreds of media members arrived for the first glimpse of the spaces that will host the presidential nominating convention.

Red and blue curtains positioned just so hinted at the "rough draft" of the layout that will be seen across the world in July.

And, in the middle of it all, stood the stage where the party's nominee will speak just over seven months from now, kicking off the campaign against the Democrats and President Joe Biden.

"This is part of the snowball, the build to next July, when 50,000-plus people arrive in Milwaukee," said Anne Hathaway, chairwoman of the Committee on Arrangements for the convention.

She called the walkthrough "a milestone" in the buildup to the convention, lauded Milwaukee's people and hospitality and said organizers aim to "leave Milwaukee better than we found it."

"We want to make sure not only is this a political partnership but that we are good community citizens," she said.

Reince Priebus, chair of the local host committee that is charged with raising $68.5 million for the event, expressed confidence that Hathaway and her staff will successfully put together the convention pieces.

"They’ve got a great team here that understands what it takes to put on a great convention," Priebus said.

The draft layout allowed more than 400 media members from local, national and international media outlets — in addition to tech companies like Google, X and Snapchat — to start planning their coverage of the made-for-TV event, Committee on Arrangements CEO Elise Dickens said.

Dickens said: "We want to upgrade, innovate and energize this convention."

Media companies will start requesting hotel rooms and venue spaces outside the Fiserv Forum in addition to looking at spaces for television reporters to do stand-ups inside the arena and for media members to file stories at the nearby Baird Center, Dickens said.

"These are the types of things that they're going to take back to their outlets and plan accordingly, get their requests to us, and we're going to just start this master game of Tetris to put all these pieces together," she said.

Fiserv Forum is the main venue, where thousands of delegates will gather to hear the big speeches. The main stage will be set up one side of the floor.

UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and the Baird Center are also being used for the convention, transforming a slice of Milwaukee into a blocks-long political midway.

Two years before the 2024 convention, the heavily Democratic city beat out Nashville to land the event that Mayor Cavalier Johnson, a Democrat, has said will put Milwaukee in the international spotlight and draw additional investment to the city.

"I'm not a Republican. In fact I'm a proud Democrat," he said. "I'm not here in a political capacity. I'm here because my goals include hosting a convention that brings attention to Milwaukee."

He talked up the economic benefits of having the convention in the city.

"All over Milwaukee you'll find businesses ready to serve you," he said, adding, "I want your experience in Milwaukee to be spectacular."

The convention's ties to the city's future also played into comments at a night-before reception Wednesday.

"While you can't experience everything this great city and state have to offer today, we hope that you will make many trips before and after the convention next summer," Chairman James Crawford of the Forest County Potawatomi told those gathered at the Miller High Life Theater Wednesday night.

Ted Kellner, CEO of the Host Committee, called the convention a "generational opportunity" to put the city center stage.

The RNC will be held July 15-18 — nearly four years to the day after the 2020 Democratic National Convention was supposed to be held in Wisconsin's largest city before the coronavirus pandemic delayed it and, ultimately, shrunk it to a mostly virtual event.

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