ST. PETERSBURG — The prospect is exciting: a showcase party at Tropicana Field on the eve of next year's Republican National Convention.
But while he welcomes that kind of exposure for St. Petersburg, Mayor Bill Foster said the city needs to have a word with RNC organizers and the Tampa Bay Rays about who pays to guard the event, which could draw up to 15,000 journalists and 5,000 or more delegates.
"I know that there are some security needs that I'll end up eating just by virtue of the type of event it is," Foster said this week. But, he added, "There's no way we can eat the whole thing, and there's no way we can eat most of it. We haven't budgeted for it."
So far, no one has asked the city for anything, Foster said, nor are there estimates of what police and similar services would cost. 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.
"We would like to get a handle on the costs so that everybody knows the expectations of the others," Foster said.
Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn referred questions to the convention's host committee, though the team has agreed to make the Trop available for an RNC event on Aug. 26, the day before the convention is gaveled to order.
The president of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee maintains that any talk about who pays for what is "very premature" and is not confirming that the party at the Trop — announced two months ago by the director of Pinellas County's tourism agency — will even take place.
"We're still looking at a lot of different options and nothing has been finally decided," host committee president Ken Jones said Friday.
The host committee has what amounts to hold-the-date contracts with nearly 100 potential event venues on both sides of Tampa Bay, including Raymond James Stadium and the University of South Florida Sun Dome. But that doesn't mean events will be scheduled at those facilities.
And Jones said the question of who covers what costs for any particular event is going to driven by a lot of different factors that won't be set until after convention organizers decide where various events will go.
"It depends on where the event is and what the event is," he said. "If you're looking at hosting a dinner at the Capital Grille the security's going to be much different than if you're hosting a 10,000-person event at Raymond James Stadium. It's going to be a facts-and-circumstances situation, and I just can't speculate on the level of security or the amount of security that's going to be required or who the attendees might be."
So when will those decisions be made?
"Fairly soon," Jones said. "We've still got some time to decide these things. When we've done the due diligence and we determine that a venue makes sense, we'll go ahead and firm it up."
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.