"I'm so sorry, we're sold out," says a woman at a downtown Motel 6.
"No, I'm all booked up," a man gruffly replies from a suburban motel.
Next week's massive gathering of Democrats, with a total price tag approaching $200 million, will inject a healthy portion of that into the Denver-area economy, and the pool of economic honey radiates out a ways.
Enterprising Denver residents are offering floor space for as little as $25 a night. Two-bedroom condos adjacent to the Pepsi Center, where the bulk of the convention will take place, can go for about 100 times as much (or $2,500 a night). One ad posted on craigslist.org offers a nearby home for $350 each night, with use of a 1999 Jeep Wrangler thrown in for free.
Meanwhile, a Best Western in Firestone, about 30 minutes north of Denver, is out of rooms. Rooms in Castle Rock, about the same distance to the south, are rapidly filling, even at premium rates for Aug. 24-28.
So, will Colorado Springs also cash in?
"We're not seeing a whole lot of hotel pickup," says Amy Long, of Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak.
Calls to local hotels confirm that picture. A clerk at Embassy Suites near East Woodmen Road and Interstate 25 says the hotel had one booking tied to the convention, but the person canceled. At other hotels, representatives say they've had no convention-related bookings.
Hundreds of Colorado businesses hoping to cash in on the convention are listed in an online vendor directory, with dozens based in Colorado Springs. (A link to the directory can be found at denverconvention2008.com.)
A listing, of course, does not guarantee calls or business. A representative at B&M Construction in Colorado Springs, which does furniture installation, says she didn't know the business was in the directory before getting a call from the Independent.
Kathy Dreiling, co-owner of Picnic Basket Catering Co., Cravings Catering and Buffalo Gals Catering, seems pleased to be asked about her listing.
"Oh gosh, I'm glad somebody saw it," she says.
Dreiling adds that it's possible convention activity will still keep them busy; business on the Front Range can come at the last minute.
"Welcome to my world," she says with a laugh.
It's a different vibe from two years ago, when Denver was under consideration as the site of the convention. At the time, Experience Colorado Springs president and CEO Terry Sullivan spoke enthusiastically with the Colorado Springs Business Journal about the potential local impact of having the convention nearby. He predicted the Pikes Peak region would likely see extra visitors at local restaurants and golf courses during the convention week.
While that may not pan out, Long suggests Sullivan's other '06 hope that the event would bring more visitors to Colorado in the years ahead still could come true. To that end, the local bureau spent about $20,000 sponsoring the convention. It plans to have a presence during a Saturday evening party for convention media in Denver, with the hope of enticing some of them to write travel stories about Colorado Springs.
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