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Tampa Bay hotels spruce up and staff up for Republican National Convention

The original plan called for the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach to replace its roof and spruce up its suites after the Republican National Convention came to Tampa in August. Needless to say, that timeline has been revised.

A little over a million dollars later, the new roof is in place and the new furniture has arrived. The resort also is bulking up its staff and renting a 20-foot Jumbotron for nighttime convention viewing parties. Like hotels and resorts around the Tampa Bay area, it is spending money on decor and entertainment equipment, in hopes that the investments will pay off when the flood of delegates arrives.

The resort is setting up an 80- by 160-foot tent on the beach, where delegates can gather for late-night parties after they return from the convention, said Cricket Wagner, the Sirata's marketing director. She is expecting roughly 600 delegates from New Jersey, including Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The delegation is taking over 362 of the resort's 380 rooms, but it could expand to fill the entire resort if the need arises. "We've closed out the hotel," Wagner said.

Less than a mile away, the Postcard Inn also is planning to be a destination, and not just for the Alaska delegation that will have its headquarters there. Patrick Brophy, the inn's general manager, said he expects a couple of thousand people per day.

"This is going to be the fun, hot place to be," Brophy said. "But you have to be invited."

A Washington, D.C.-based events company — Brophy would not disclose its name — will host different delegations as well as individual attendees at the inn throughout the day, he said, beginning with a concert on the beach. There also will be concerts on the pool deck, paddleboarding, beach volleyball, corn hole and cabanas.

Exactly who the musicians and entertainers will be, Brophy would not say, but "it won't be like your dad and your brother playing a guitar, these will be A-liners," he said.

For other hotels, preparing for the Republican National Convention is less about creating a red-hot beach party atmosphere than handling the flow of visitors, but that still means spending money, particularly on staff.

"We're adding additional servers, bartenders, wait staff, that kind of thing," said Bob Sauerwine, director of sales for the Holiday Inn at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, where both the Colorado and New Mexico delegations are staying.

Sauerwine's delegates will likely go elsewhere for evening festivities, so he and his staff are preparing breakfast events and training the new hires.

"We're going to be so busy," he said, "which is unlike this time of year."

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Tampa Bay hotels spruce up and staff up for Republican National Convention 07/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:16pm]

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