According to Ronald Kessler at NewsMax, the ACU has officially decided to move to The Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor for CPAC 2013 (and presumably beyond that year).
The move has actually been under discussion for several years, particularly in the period of explosive growth that CPAC experienced under the superb leadership of Lisa De Pasquale from 2007 through 2011. As many conservatives and bloggers will recall, the convention bounced around for some years, and landed at the Omni Shoreham (where it had been previously, on occasion) in 2006. This was a few years after it made headlines as the first mainstream convention to formally provide bloggers with reporters’ credentials.
In 2010, 2011, and 2012, the convention was across the street, at the Marriott Wardman Park—a much larger venue than the Omni (and, as Cynthia would doubtless remind me, a far more handicapped-accessible site). Significantly for bloggers, the main bar was bigger than that at the Omni, and there was a second bar. (And, yes: the Marriott would allow one to carry a drink between the two bars without interference; this procedure has been rigorously field-tested.) One source told me that ACU had a contract in place with the Marriott through 2013—but it’s likely that three years in a row of substandard internet access in the media room overlooking the main ballroom has rendered that contract null and void.
The move to a huge convention center will be a huge mixed bag for the conservatives and New Media operatives for whom CPAC has been the most important networking and outreach event of any calendar year:
LODGING: There are more hotels in the immediate vicinity, rather than the situation at Calvert & Connecticut (the largest intersection near the Omni/the Mariott). Students, bloggers, and those with limited funds (but I repeat myself), will have more choices than two overpriced hotels, an overpriced B&B or two, and a few cheaper options over the bridge, closer to Dupont Circle, and a bit of a chilly walk away from the action. (But, no: so far Expedia won’t cough up any good deals at hotels right there on the Harbor itself, or across the street. One apparently has to be a bit more wily than that. I’m seeing listings two miles away, but I’d prefer to be within two blocks, thank you very much.)
EATS/DRINKING: There will probably be more bars and restaurants, and bigger ones, at National Harbor. And possibly better steak houses. (This is pivotal for Gay Patriot, who will be buying me a steak dinner at CPAC 2013.)
TRANSPORTATION: There is no Metro service to National Harbor, and this is very likely the biggest drawback to holding the convention there. We know that the Metro station nearb the Marriott/Omni was critical to a lot of students who were able to stay a stop or two away, and take the train to “work” during that three-day period over the past six years. We also know that this helped bloggers, some of whom crashed at the homes of locals in the suburbs, grabbing the guest key and taking the Metro that night to their couch-of-choice.
Yet some of those same locals may now be desperately saving up their money for expensive cab rides over the next 11 months, or even pooling it for “crash pads” closer to the action.
Plenty of the D.C.-adjacent people live well into the District, and a few are in Arlington, Pentagon City, and other outlying towns in Va/MD—close as the crow flies, but pricey if you have to take a taxi [UPDATE: Google Maps tells me Arlington isn't as far away as I had thought it was, so some of the Arlington people may do okay]. Some have brought up the idea of van pools for those who live within the District city limits (or in parts of Northern Virginia) but the destinations are far-flung, and CPAC participants aren’t really used to having to curtail their partying in accordance with when a van departs.
For those with cars, the situation will be better: parking at the Gaylord is far, far better than it was at the Marriott Wardman Park. But how many District residents maintain cars?
SPACE: The move to the Gaylord may, if the CPAC organizers are clever, end the “two-tier” system of blogging that was beginning to develop earlier this month. I remember when 20-30 of us were credentialed, and a dozen of us worked around the same little table in the basement of the Omni Shoreham—but now there are 500 bloggers, and as many other types of media. The bloggers, in particular, are a tough lot to manage: we’re loud, we require tables and superb WiFi connections, and we go through a lot of coffee.
The main ballroom at the Gaylord is said to be three times as large as the one at the Marriott, and presumably there are side rooms that can be used for New Media setups as well—preferably, of course, divided by how noisy the endeavors are likely to be, rather than how much clout one has with the organizers. The noise issue is critical: I saw at least one interview ruined this year when someone started a loud discussion near an open mic. We need a quiet room where we use our indoor voices. All, um, 500 of us.
All in all, it will likely be a fun adventure. All the CPAC organizers have to do is lift their absurd ban on GOProud, and it will be time to take our message to the rest of the country. If we have a new President by then, there will be plenty of work to do to keep him on a reasonably short leash.
And so we will begin.