Saturday, January 18, 2014
A look at the stage of the 2012 Republican National Convention In Tampa, FL
I was not at Tampa for the 2012 RNC but I talked with many people who at the event and I asked each person a set of same set of questions. I began to notice several things kept on popping up and its something worth talking about.
Now before I begin let me say clearly that hosting an event as big as a presidential nominating convention is a extremely difficult thing to pull off successfully. There are many difficult logistical and security challenges that can crush even experience show runners, dedicated staff and state of the art venue. Many said that the people of the Tampa / St. Petersburg metro area were kind and welcoming to convention attendees even when the convention was very disruptive to both the convention attendees and people alike.
So now on with countdown:
1. DATE AND LOCATION WAS POOR.
During numerous talks that I had with attendees mention that the location (Gulf Coast of Florida) AND the dates were simply not the best. When Tampa was listed as finalist in early 2010 a concern was the possibility of hurricane striking/disrupting the convention and the stifling humidity that attendees would face. Well you can guess what happened when a storm named Issac swept on by.
Also, numerous attendees told me that the heat combines with the oppressive humidity was stifling. This was exacerbated by the fact that attendees had to walk long distances with numerous obstacles.
This leads me to...
2. WAS THIS A NOMINATING CONVENTION OR A BATTLE FORTESS?
I heard more than once that the security arrangements for Tampa turned the downtown into a battle fortress that was very unwelcoming. It was not so much the law enforcement (who garnered well deserved praise), rather, it was high fences and concrete barriers and the chocking check points that created that was the problem. (one attendee pointed out that these barriers w/checkpoints created large queues of people trying to get in and thus a tempting terrorist target). These barriers made what would normally be short walks long marathons in the stifling heat and humidity.
The key to make an event like this work is have short walks between the main venue, satellite venues and the hotels. Well that is not what happened.
This brings us to...
3. THE ACTUAL VENUE WAS GREAT BUT THE LACK OF DOWNTOWN HOTEL SPACE WAS NOT.
A delegate told me that their hotel was a 60 min bus ride away from the main convention venue. The combination of check points, street closures and high barricades made it a slog to get to and from the convention and satellite events. A bit stunned that delegates would be that far away I looked at a map of downtown Tampa and here is what I saw.
Not enough hotels near the actual venue and those that are are killer walks in the heat and humidify of late August.
There are only about 10 hotels in acceptable walking distance from the venue. But even of these 10 the walk would be about 30 mins from six of the hotels on the map. (you got to add stoplights and many people do not walk fast) This walk would be a long hard slog in the heat and humidity of Florida's late August and a nightmare if rained. When you add the barriers, check points and street closures anyone who has a mobility issue is in for a difficult time.
So what have we learned?
1. Host the 2012 RNC in late June or early July. This will avoid the hurricane disruption issue and give the nominee a good springboard to campaign in the summer.
2. Let's have good security not oppressive security. Yes you want to have visible security presence but at the same time barriers can be hidden and made to look good not intimidating.
3. Hotels must be no more than 30 bus ride away from the venue. Attendees and Delegates need be to doing their thing not sitting on buses trying to get from place to another.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus must find a city that meets the above criteria in his search for the host city in 2016. Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at some of the cities that are vying to host the convention and hope that 2016 will not be a repeat of 2012.
Posted by Kevin McKeever at 2:00 PM