TAMPA — Hundreds of the journalists who will tell the story of next year's Republican National Convention get their first look at the St. Pete Times Forum this afternoon.
GOP convention organizers will brief the media on topics from booking a hotel room to getting credentials to sizing up camera angles to securing a precious few square feet of floor space for live shots.
At least 450 representatives of major television networks, national newspapers, online publications, radio, Hispanic media, wire services, foreign news outlets and local TV stations and newspapers have signed up.
It will be Tampa Bay's biggest RNC-related event to date. It is aimed at helping news organizations make plans to capture the sights and sounds of the convention, touted as the single largest media event in the world outside the Olympics.
"This is the first major milestone in our planning process," convention spokesman James Davis said. "We're on track, even in some ways ahead of pace, and we're really looking forward to welcoming the national and international media to Tampa Bay."
The walk-through will include a tour of the venue, where delegates will name the GOP's presidential nominee, and the Tampa Convention Center, which will be the working hub for 13,000 to 15,000 journalists — triple the number who covered the Super Bowl.
In the evening, the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee will hold a reception for the visiting journalists with Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The convention is expected to draw 50,000 delegates, dignitaries, journalists, party staffers, demonstrators and other visitors to Tampa Bay next Aug. 27-30.
Making the venue ready for the media requires extensive construction. To transform luxury suites into mini broadcast studios, organizers have said workers will remove the stadium seats, the furniture, even the ceiling tiles from the suites and store them. Then they'll cover the floors with plywood and plastic sheeting and similarly protect built-in cabinets and other things they can't remove.
At the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., news organizations paid from about $18,000 to more than $34,000 for the broadcast suites and 6- by 12-foot stand-up positions at various points in the hall cost about $8,500 each.
The convention is expected to use more cables, fiber connections and electricity than anything ever held in Florida.