Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough commits $1 million to marketing Tampa Bay during GOP convention

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to spend $1 million in tourist development tax money to promote the area during the Republican National Convention.

The idea, commission Chairman Ken Hagan said, is to "capitalize on hosting this once-in-a-lifetime event" while the eyes of the world are on Tampa Bay.

That includes spending $400,000 to help throw a big welcome party in St. Petersburg. The convention hasn't announced it yet, but Pinellas County officials have said this will be a party for up to 15,000 journalists and 5,600 delegates at Tropicana Field.

And if it seems curious for Hillsborough to help pick up the tab for a party in Pinellas, consider this twist: The St. Petersburg venue is expected to feature "Tampa-specific decor, themes and staging," the re-creation of a Gasparilla parade and Hillsborough theme park entertainers, according to Hillsborough records.

So: Money from Hillsborough goes to a party in Pinellas to be decorated to look like Tampa.

What does the mayor of St. Petersburg think of this?

"We welcome Hillsborough County's money," Mayor Bill Foster said. "As long as somebody else is footing the bill and paying the cost of the facility's use, they can have any kind of themed event they want."

Foster noted that St. Petersburg has not committed a penny of taxpayers' money for the welcome party, which Pinellas officials say is scheduled for Aug. 26, the eve of the four-day convention.

In Hillsborough, the only commissioner to have any heartburn over the idea was Kevin Beckner.

But his issue wasn't the party's location or its decor.

It was the guest list.

Beckner said commissioners had been told the money would promote the area, not be used for partisan activities. He wanted to know: Will this be open to the public?

The answer is no, it's a closed event with tickets going to about 5,600 delegates plus media, said Matt Becker, chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Host Committee, the nonprofit organization helping to host the event.

For Beckner, that nudged the event more toward being partisan.

Beckner noted that commissioners had criticized other agencies over the perception that they spent public money on entertainment, not the least of which was a blowup over the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance spending $34,000 improperly on food.

To spend taxpayer money now on a private event would be hypocritical and not in the best interest of taxpayers, said Beckner, who cast the sole vote against it.

But Commissioner Les Miller Jr., like Beckner a Democrat, said that's not the way to look at it.

Miller said he's been to similar parties at Democratic conventions, and this won't be a drunken bash but something to bring everyone involved in the convention — delegates, staff and others — together to get things started.

Hagan described the convention, the first in Florida since 1972, as a historic opportunity and added that he could not think of a more appropriate use of Hillsborough tourist tax dollars. The tax is a 5 percent "bed tax" on hotel, motel and other overnight rentals.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said it's not just something to entertain thousands of visitors, but to help brand the Tampa Bay area as a great place to vacation and do business.

"That's the benefit," he said.

In addition to the St. Petersburg event, the budget for the marketing program includes:

• $275,000 for a Tampa Bay information center inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum; for airport entertainers and banners, lighting and other materials to welcome visitors; for a discount guide with deals on local restaurants and attractions; for gift bags for delegates and media; and for training on the Tampa Bay area and its venues for coach, limo and taxi drivers.

• $175,000 for advertising on airline publications as well as in leisure, meeting and convention industry publications; for a behind-the-scenes tour for event and convention planners; and for promotions to drive traffic to a new visitors center in the Channel District.

• $150,000 to partner with the U.S. Travel Association and Visit Florida on promotions; to produce a "Welcome to Tampa Bay" magazine to be delivered free to all guests and media, as well as for videos with a similar theme; and to promote Tampa Bay through a local branding effort with a unified message.

Comments
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE — A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago

Police investigating shooting outside nightclub

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside a south St. Petersburg nightclub early Saturday morning.Brennan-Aire D. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by cab at Bayfront Health. Police invest...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays jump on Orioles early, coast to 5-1 win

Rays jump on Orioles early, coast to 5-1 win

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Orioles on Saturday at Tropicana Field.In his first career start, Ryne Stanek pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings for Tampa Bay, retiring all five batters he faced. His fastball sitting...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman dies in Plant City after SUV flips off road

PLANT CITY — A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Her husband wouldn’t apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn’t apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said.Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Mark A. H...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, o...
Updated: 3 hours ago