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News on the Aug. 27-30 convention

RNC music scene will be lively but exclusive

TAMPA — The Republican National Convention will create its own lively music scene — Journey, Willie Nelson, Kid Rock and Trace Adkins, among others.

But it will be a scene peopled almost exclusively by corporate sponsors, celebrities and select VIPs. These shows are invitation-only, and access isn't cheap.

Consider the Creative Coalition, which is co-sponsoring Journey's gig at Liberty Plaza, a private party venue proposed a few blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The New York-based arts charity has a block of about 700 tickets, most of which have been sold for about $1,000 each to corporate sponsors, trade associations and "individuals who believe in supporting the arts and having a good time," Creative Coalition chief executive officer Robin Bronk said.

Patrons get the chance to mingle with A-list celebrities and politicians, and the charity raises money for its arts advocacy work, mentoring and education programs, and public service announcement campaigns.

The coalition also has offered six-figure sponsorship deals to anyone willing to underwrite the VIP party or other events such as roundtable breakfasts or cocktail receptions. The cost to sponsor the VIP party: $175,000 — or $300,000 to do parties at both the RNC and Democratic National Convention.

So far, however, no takers.

"I wish we did have a $300,000 sponsor," Bronk said. "We're a charity. We'll make it work."

So the coalition is planning its VIP party for Aug. 30 and will schedule meetings with policymakers and other influential conventioneers as circumstances allow. But it has no roundtable breakfasts or cocktail receptions in the works.

For the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the group's plans are a mirror image of the RNC, just with different players, Bronk said.

Port of Tampa: Too important to close

When Secret Service agent Matt Miller first came to Tampa to coordinate security for the Republican National Convention, it didn't take him long to start thinking about the Port of Tampa.

The port sits less than half a mile from the forum, and each year it handles millions of tons of petroleum, anhydrous ammonia and liquid sulphur — a witch's brew of explosives and chemicals.

Miller said his first reaction was just, "Hey, for four days, shut it down."

But soon he changed his thinking, Miller told a group of tourism industry executives in Clearwater Beach last week. For example, he noticed that when jet fuel spilled in Tampa from a Tampa-to-Orlando pipeline last year, it affected operations at Orlando International Airport.

Seeing that the port was important not just to the Tampa Bay area but also to the rest of the state, authorities began looking at it differently.

"There has been a struggle all along with what can be done versus what should be done" for the RNC, Miller said.

So, working with many local, state and federal agencies, authorities came up with a plan to ensure the safety of the convention and the community that does not bring commercial and recreational boating to its knees, Miller said.

Boating will be subject to restrictions on the Seddon, Ybor and Sparkman channels, and it will be banned in the Garrison Channel behind the forum.

Keeping all waterways open to everyone was theoretically possible, Miller said, but it would have required "enormous assets from the federal, state and local governments" and probably would have led to questions about the cost to taxpayers.

Fewer volunteers, more voluntarism

The Tampa Bay Host Committee announced plans in February to recruit 7,500 local volunteers to greet conventioneers at airports and hotels, help visitors find their way, put together gift bags, do office chores, help set up for events and put a friendly, helpful face on the bay area.

Six months later, with less than a month to go, the host committee has more than 4,300 volunteers.

That said, it sounds like an enthusiastic bunch.

The host committee says it has filled 95 percent of the 10,000-plus shifts it needed to fill for the convention.

The 7,500-volunteer goal was based on an assumption that volunteers would work two shifts each, said Amanda Whitelaw, the host committee's director of events and volunteers.

"Most of our volunteers have signed up for far more than that," she said. Some have stepped forward for as many as 10 shifts.

To organizers, what's important is that shifts are filled, Whitelaw said, "and they are."

In all, volunteers have committed to working more than 78,000 hours at nearly 60 sites, including more than 50 hotels. Shifts range from four to nine hours.

While the host committee reached out locally, it is getting volunteers from 42 states. The minimum age is 18. The oldest volunteer is 90.

The host committee said Friday it is still taking volunteers. For information, visit 2012tampa.com/get-involved.

RNC music scene will be lively but exclusive 08/04/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 4, 2012 11:54pm]
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