Workers will have 20 hours to transform Trop for RNC party

ST. PETERSBURG — More than 1,000 workers will anxiously await the conclusion of the Tampa Bay Rays game on Saturday.

Not because they're fans, but because they'll have only 20 hours to transform Tropicana Field from a stadium littered with empty beer cups into an elegant gala to kick off the Republican National Convention.

"This is one of the tightest turns of any event that has ever been done at this field," Tampa Bay Host Committee president Ken Jones said Tuesday. "I actually think it's bigger than a Super Bowl halftime show. It's going to be phenomenal."

Riggers will build three stages. Technicians will hang lights. Caterers will prepare thousands of meals with Tampa-centric foods. Sand, sun and saltwater themes will greet the 20,000 delegates, dignitaries and journalists who will attend.

"It's going to be local flavor," Jones said. "If you walked in, you'll know you're in the Tampa Bay area. You'll know you're in Florida."

The Tampa Bay Host Committee held its final press briefing Tuesday morning to discuss the party, which it has called the largest welcome party in RNC history.

Stages will rise around home plate, leftfield and rightfield. Hundreds of entertainers from Busch Gardens will perform and welcome visitors as they enter the party.

Platinum-selling country singer-songwriter Rodney Atkins, known for hits like It's America and Take a Back Road, will headline the event. Other performers include Karla Davis from The Voice and Tampa's own Shannon Magrane from American Idol.

"I get to sing and have a good time and rock the party," said Magrane, 16, a junior at Tampa's Blake High School. "I can't wait. We get to show the world what Tampa Bay is really about."

Attendees, organizers said, also will be wooed by three-dimensional images highlighting the region.

Six Kabuki drops, which are fabric-production screens, will drop from stadium rafters to project images from around the bay.

"That's not something many people have ever seen in person," said Amanda Whitelaw, the host committee's director of events and volunteers. "We hope that makes a lasting impression on everyone."

Jones pointed out that the convention next week at the Tampa Bay Times Forum is all about politics, but the welcome party is designed to entice visitors to come back to Tampa Bay.

"It's less about politics and more about Tampa Bay," he said. "We're very, very excited about it."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Workers will have 20 hours to transform Trop for RNC party 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:05pm]

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