The sliders and pretzels have been ordered. Boston cover band Sweet Tooth & the Sugarbabies is on the bill. All Mitt Romney’s party at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center needs now is a victory.
It is one of the toughest types of events to plan: a candidate’s election night celebration. Depending on the results Tuesday night, Romney’s Seaport District soiree could either be a raucous celebration or a subdued gathering.
“I’m hoping it’s at least a three-day-long event before they figure out who wins because they’ll be staying here, spending money,” said Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, of the roughly 8,000 campaign supporters and journalists in town for the event.
Win or lose, Moscaritolo said Romney’s party could generate up to $12 million in direct spending on hotels, restaurants, and transportation, and up to $20 million in overall economic impact, which could just about offset the losses the city’s tourism and convention sector suffered last week during Hurricane Sandy. Hotels across the city are at more than 90 percent occupancy Tuesday thanks to the Romney fete, along with the national attention drawn by the Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren Senate race.
On Monday, the convention center was a hive of activity. Out front, journalists set up cameras on risers for live shots. Inside, about 40 workers have been toiling around the clock to get the third-floor ballroom fit for a potential president, as saws buzzed and men on lifts adjusted lights in the ceiling.
The convention center has installed more than 500 lines for phones, cable TV, and data, and provided spots for 50 satellite news trucks alongside the building.
“From a media and world attention perspective, it’s unprecedented,” said convention center spokesman Mac Daniel.
Even though many polls across the country will not have closed yet, the party for the former Massachusetts governor officially kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. About 5,000 Romney supporters and journalists are expected to show up — and they can stay all night if the race is too close to call.
But do not expect a free flow of alcohol. It is a cash bar. These are fiscal conservatives, after all.
Partygoers will be able to track the election results on four large TVs outside the ballroom and two giant screens inside, and monitors throughout the center. On Monday afternoon, the four TVs outside the ballroom were tuned to conservative Fox News, but on Tuesday night the campaign plans to broadcast coverage from different channels. (For those who cannot get into the ballroom, the center will be broadcasting the event on a 150-foot video wall overlooking the lobby.)
“It’s a party, but we’re not trying to go over the top,” said Will Ritter, director of advance for the Romney campaign, who declined to say if there would be confetti but confirmed that the night will be a balloon-free affair. “This is where he gets introduced to the American people as a president, so we’re trying to keep this as stately as we can and still keep it a fun event.”
Republican or Democrat, people will be descending on the Seaport District in droves for election night events. Next door to the convention center, managers at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel coordinated security details with the Secret Service in anticipation of several Romney gatherings being held there. Strega Waterfront is fully booked, mostly with large groups connected with the election and Romney’s presence in the area. Google and think tank MassINC are cohosting a nonpartisan party at Legal Harborside on the third-floor rooftop.
Anticipating crowds, the city will shut down Summer and D streets near the convention hall starting at 6 p.m., and State Police will be patrolling until 2 a.m.
The Romney campaign declined to give the cost of the party. While it is free to supporters, it will not be to news organizations; in an unusual move, the media will be charged a fee to get into the event. About 1,000 journalists are expected at the convention center Tuesday night, and they are being charged $75 for a seat in the ballroom. (The Obama campaign, which is holding its election night party at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, is charging for access to the media center.)
If Romney loses, the soiree will probably take on a more somber tone. Election night party planners often have multiple soundtracks for different outcomes, said Dusty Rhodes, president of the Boston event company Conventures. Lighting will become more subdued, confetti canons will go unused.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts did not even show up for his 2004 presidential election night rally in Copley Square. With the race too close to call, he instead dispatched running mate John Edwards to address supporters at 2:30 a.m. Kerry gave a concession speech the next day at Faneuil Hall.
Regardless of the outcome, the party can still be a celebration of the hard work put in by a candidate and his staff, said Megan Leavy, president of Mpire Events in Boston, who recommended keeping the drinks flowing and the music upbeat. Still, nothing beats a victory, she said: “Obviously the best party to be at is the winning party.”