If Atlanta is chosen to host, nearly 5,000 delegates and upwards of 50,000 people would descend on the city for four days of political festivities.
Seven major hotels in the heart of downtown will cater to more than half the estimated guests, while others will be scattered from Midtown to Buckhead.
As a key part of their bid, Atlanta officials tout the city’s history of holding mass events from the 1996 Olympics, 2019 Super Bowl, 2021 NBA All Star Game, the 2021 World Series and games for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“It’s one of those industries that’s grown up with Atlanta and Atlanta has grown up with that industry,” Former Mayor Shirley Franklin said of Atlanta’s relationship with tourism. Franklin also served as a top official under then-Mayor Andrew Young when the city hosted the 1988 convention.
Ultimately determined by the White House, the choice has been narrowed down to three major cities: Atlanta, Chicago and New York.
Political pundits speculate that since President Joe Biden — who is expected to announce his reelection bid — finished up his State of the Union speech, an announcement on the location could come any day.
At an event earlier this month, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens sounded more confident than ever about the city’s chances: “We’re going to get the DNC,” Dickens said at an Atlanta Press Club event.
Political players like Dickens, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, former Governor Roy Barnes, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams and philanthropist Billye Aaron have all helped craft the city’s carefully curated convention plan and lobby White House allies.
The city’s bid also goes beyond the nuts and bolts of hosting a massive convention. It highlights Atlanta’s history as a cradle of the Civil Rights Movement and recent election wins that put Democrats in power in Washington and helped keep them there.
The proposal labels Atlanta as an “all-in-one solution” for hosting thousands of delegates who will have to jump from meeting to meeting, according to details referenced by someone with knowledge of the bid.
The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau has already secured about 15,000 rooms across nearly 70 hotels in downtown, Midtown and Buckhead for the week-long event — with the furthest lodging options about 8 miles away.
The main convention would take place at State Farm Arena, which would get a massive facelift with crews starting setup work as soon as the NBA finishes out its schedule.
“About the whole month of July and half of August, people will be in there working on the stage, the lighting, to where everything is just picture perfect,” said Mark Vaughan, executive vice president for ACVB.
Convention activities would also take place in the three interconnected buildings of the Georgia World Congress Center and at the 220-acre Greater Convention Complex, home to Centennial Olympic Park, Mercedes Benz Stadium, the CNN Center and College Football Hall of Fame.
All are within a short walk of each other, the proposal highlights.
“I think that’s another thing that kind of makes Atlanta a little bit unique is we’re fairly compact,” Vaughan said. “...That will keep people in a very dense area for the majority of their stay.”
Another key part of Atlanta’s bid is the place Dickens calls the “crown jewel” of the city: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which recently reclaimed its title as the busiest airport in the world.
Bid organizers emphasize that 80% of the country’s population lives within a 2.5 hour flight to Hartsfield-Jackson.
The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau has been given estimates by bid organizers that the event would have an economic impact of more than $200 million.
The influx of cash would come not just from guests but hundreds of crew members working on a tight deadline setup and hundreds more working the event itself.
Nonetheless, many economists have found that large events like conventions, major sports and even the Olympics tend to generate less economic impact than boosters claim.
But local officials aren’t just thinking about the short-term benefits of the surge of people traveling, staying at hotels and frequenting event spaces and restaurants.
Local leaders will spend much of their time rubbing elbows with federal politicians and marketing the city as a Southern hub for hospitality, tech and other industries.
“Relationships that are formed during that week ... may lead to economic development opportunities,” Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman said.
The first-term city council president said the Democratic National Convention was more like hosting the Olympics than the Super Bowl, with hoards of influential individuals camped out in the same place.
“It’s a big security list,” he said. “You’ve got a ton of VIPs in one place at the same time.”
Peaceful protests, angry clashes
An event of such size requires a hefty security lift to keep the country’s top politicians moving through their schedules without interruption. U.S. political conventions typically draw protests on a variety of issues.
The 1988 convention in Atlanta saw peaceful demonstrations by gay rights advocates, as well as violent clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protestors.
If Atlanta is chosen as the 2024 host city, former Mayor Andrew Young told the AJC he recommends Dickens immediately set up a liaison with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
“I think that the convention is not just a national convention,” Young said. “This would be a worldwide convention.”
The Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Fire Department would be the main local agencies handling security, according to a source familiar with details of the bid. Atlanta public safety officers would also have the ability to request assistance from 27 other police and fire departments from nearby areas.