Hotels, motels swell with RNC visitors

By Jason Hawk -

Just about every available hotel room in the region is booked as politicos from all across America swarm into Greater Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.

With protesters marching and security a major concern, police have been keeping an eye on the surge of visitors, even as far out as Lorain and Erie counties.

Chiefs here have ramped up an extra effort to keep the peace at crowded lodging locations. Some cities along major transportation routes, including Amherst, have limited police overtime and put extra details on traffic duty.

Amid the build-up to the convention, we called nearly 20 hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds to find just how packed our area is.

Mike Patel, manager of Motel 6 in Amherst, said his rooms are booked up, with 56 percent for RNC attendees.

His relative, Judy Patel, runs Days Inn next door and said it was at capacity until a reservation back-out for one huge RNC party opened 46 rooms.

Days Inn in Elyria reported it’s booked solid. Nearby Best Western is as well; a manager there who declined to give her name said it’s a hot spot for bus drivers taking RNC guests to Cleveland.

It makes sense that the concentration of convention attendees is heavy closer to the Lorain/Cuyahoga border.

Manager Scott Poledna of Cambria Hotel and Suites in Avon said 110 of his 113 rooms are full. The other three were reserved for RNC guests who cancelled.

Among his guests are the Republican delegations from North Dakota and South Dakota.

They are the only official delegations to lodge in Lorain County.

Other managers were hesitant to talk about their guests, politely declining to answer questions about whether they are hosts to protesters, delegates, spectators, celebrities, or journalists.

However, reaching out to political contacts we were able to verify the California delegation is staying at Kalahari in Sandusky, which is an oddity — other high-population, big-influence states such as New York, Texas, and Ohio have been assigned the best accommodations downtown near The Q.

Closer to us, several less-influential states’ delegates are camped out at hotels in Westlake, including Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Delaware.

Lodging is not random or first-come-first-served. The nonpartisan Cleveland 2016 Host Committee arranged for about 90 percent of the region’s rooms to be made available, while the entirely partisan Republican National Committee chose where to put visiting delegates.

Some 5,000 rooms in downtown Cleveland were reserved for VIPs while another 11,000 were set aside within a 35-mile radius. Another 1,100 dorm units and 500 apartments are being used.

RNC organizers say Northeast Ohio stands to make $200 million in direct spending by convention attendees. Lodging is a big part of that estimate.

While impossible to verify, it’s estimated the convention will attract 50,000 people to the region.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk