TAMPA — With 27 days until the Republican National Convention, the Tampa Bay Times Forum was already an anthill of activity as scores of workers built the stage, installed cable and transformed luxury suites into television broadcast booths.
Then, on Monday, things got busier as the convention's contractor fully moved into the Tampa Convention Center, too.
That's two weeks after the RNC took over the Times Forum, the site of the Aug. 27-30 convention, but there's a reason. For more than two years, Tampa officials have told the GOP to plan to take the last full week of July off at the convention center so that 3,600 aspiring lawyers could take the Bar exam there in peace.
"Fortunately, the media work space (at the convention center) does not take as long in that venue as it does here to do construction and lighting and sound," convention chief operating officer Mike Miller said.
The $20 million build-out of the Times Forum is on schedule, Miller said. About 250 motorized cables have been secured to girders in the ceiling and workers have begun to use those to lift trusses into place for the lights, sound system and other elements. About 200 to 300 workers are on the job at the venue on any given day and the build-out is expected to take 50,000 hours of labor.
One project completed this spring was a $520,000 acoustical upgrade. Working through the Tampa Bay Host Committee, the nonprofit organization leasing the space for the convention, the RNC contracted with the Tampa Bay Lightning to split the costs of:
• Installing about 100,000 square feet of acoustical blankets to the ceiling. The blankets are black and hang in swags, with two ends attached to the ceiling and the middle drooping in a slight curve. They are made of sailcloth, with a layer of sound-absorbing fiberglass insulation.
• Hanging acoustical blankets vertically in other areas.
• Installing insulated panels covered in blue fabric to keep sound from bouncing off walls behind seats for fans with disabilities.
The upgrades will allow conventioneers to hear the spoken word more clearly, but they also will make for better sound at future concerts, said Ray Chandler, the Lightning's vice president for design and construction.