NAACP chooses Baltimore as convention site for 2000 San Francisco, Washington also bid

October 25, 1997|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

The NAACP has chosen Baltimore as the site of its annual convention in 2000, giving the city's convention center a showcase gathering certain to reap national attention.

The board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said yesterday that it had selected Baltimore over bids from San Francisco and Washington.

"Symbolically, this sends a strong message," said Carroll Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. "The press coverage you get is phenomenal. To rise above two major cities like that really substantiates are ability to play in the major leagues."

NAACP spokesman Dan Willson confirmed the selection of Baltimore, saying only that San Francisco and Washington also made strong bids.

The fact that the NAACP's headquarters is in Baltimore played a role in the city's argument for the convention, Armstrong said.

The NAACP liked the idea that the convention would allow delegates throughout the nation to tour its headquarters. Additionally, the organization stood to save money on staff travel expenses.

But Armstrong said Kweisi Mfume, the NAACP's president and a former Baltimore congressman, was barred by organizational rules from having a prominent role in the decision. Mfume was not available for comment yesterday.

With about 12,000 people expected to attend the July 2000 event, the six-night gathering would likely result in occupancy of more than 3,000 hotel rooms and direct spending of $13 million.

.` The gathering would not be the

largest for the convention center, which has had conventions with as many as 16,000 delegates.

But the event, attended last year and this year by President Clinton, serves as a prominent forum for racial, family and economic issues.

The 1998 convention will be in Atlanta, and the year after in New York. Armstrong credited city officials, hoteliers and the convention center staff for getting the 2000 convention.

He said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke juggled his schedule so he could attend the presentation at this year's convention in Pittsburgh. "Without the mayor, we wouldn't even have been in the running," he said.

He said San Francisco provided the toughest competition. The California city is not only the most popular convention destination, but its mayor, Willie Brown, is one of the nation's most respected black political leaders.

Brown pushed hard for the convention, saying the organization needed a presence in California to protest Proposition 209, an anti-affirmative action measure.

"We were looked upon as the least favorite and as the long shot," Armstrong said.

The NAACP was swayed by several factors in choosing Baltimore, Armstrong said. The organization liked the fact that hotels were within walking distance of the convention center, an advantage that San Francisco couldn't duplicate, Armstrong said.

The city also made the argument that Baltimore exemplifies the values of the NAACP, with African-Americans holding positions of importance in city government and the tourism industry.

"If you want to talk about access and opportunity, you need to show the examples of cities that are doing it right," Armstrong said.

Pub Date: 10/25/97

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