Democrats assess convention city Charlotte's hotels

Democrats from as far as Hawaii and Washington state get their first look at accommodations for next year's Democratic convention today, as they take a whirlwind tour of Charlotte and its hotels.

Around three dozen party officials from 14 states began gathering over the weekend. For many, it's the first chance to take a look at a city they've never visited.

"We'll try ... to sort of wander around the city and get a sense of where everything is in relation to each other," says Norm Sterzenbach, executive director of Iowa's Democratic Party. "Hop in a car, hop in a cab ... just get a sense of the city."

Today's visit is the first of three by state Democratic officials from around the country. Delegations from every state and territory will have visited by Thanksgiving.

As many as 6,500 delegates will be among the 35,000 visitors in the city for the four-day convention that starts next Sept. 3.

The visits are designed to acquaint delegations with the city and begin the hotel selection process. At a party gathering in Chicago last month, convention organizers held a lottery to determine the selection order for hotels. That was just the start.

Everybody wants to be close to the convention site at Time-Warner Cable Arena. But state delegations have different needs, including the number of available rooms, the amount of meeting and office space and proximity to restaurants and event venues. Room prices are also a factor.

"It's like a giant game of Tetris," says Kelsey Larus, the convention's director of housing. "We have a really good mix of hotel types ... so I think we can work with everyone to fill their needs."

Delegations will range from a couple dozen people to, in the case of a state such as California, over 700. Lottery positions will be a tie-breaker if two delegations want the same hotel.

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