ST. PETERSBURG — The worst kept secret in Tampa Bay has finally been confirmed.
A showcase party at Tropicana Field will be held on Aug. 26, the eve of the Republican National Convention. Mayor Bill Foster confirmed the kickoff event to the Tampa Bay Times, but said he doesn't know the details.
"It's not my announcement to make," he said.
More than 15,000 journalists and 5,600 delegates plan to attend the gala, which is essentially a cocktail party with live music. It's expected to draw a fair amount of protesters.
The party has been talked about for months. Local officials and the Secret Service have said the party will be at the Trop, but leaders at the Tampa Bay Host Committee have never confirmed the event. The committee has been negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays for use of the facility.
While speaking to the Tampa Downtown Partnership this week, host committee president Ken Jones said this about the welcome party: "It is the absolute worst-kept secret in the entire Tampa Bay area where this thing's going to be."
It is unclear what police and similar services will cost the city. While the city owns the Trop, the Rays manage it. Under a deal between the two, when an event grows to a certain size, the team has to contract with the city for services like security.
City officials have been meeting with St. Petersburg and Tampa police officials, in addition to representatives from the U.S. Secret Service.
Earlier this month, officials in St. Petersburg started drafting regulations for protests outside the event. The regulations should come before the St. Petersburg City Council in July.
In May, Tampa approved rules for protests outside the Republican National Convention.
The Tampa City Council approved a designated protest area — called the "Event Zone" — that is open to everyone, no permit necessary, 24 hours a day, and where most weapons are banned. Inside the zone, groups of 50 or more still must apply for an all-day permit for parks. Originally, that had been limited to an hour. The time limit for marches was limited initially to an hour but later expanded to 90 minutes.
Several items are banned inside the zone, including Mace, metal knuckles, aerosol cans and certain types of plastic and wood. Tampa tried to prohibit concealed weapons, but Gov. Rick Scott refused to issue an executive order banning the weapons.
Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.