Sunday, January 21, 2018
Opinion

After convention gone, improvements remain

The many benefits of Tampa hosting this year's Republican National Convention include significant improvements that will remain long after the convention crowds have left.

These enhancements — which range from wireless upgrades to significant enhancements to the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center — will leave the community better than when we arrived.

It almost goes without saying that the convention will give Tampa Bay's economy a boost during what is, traditionally, the slowest tourist season of the year.

We are expecting 50,000 delegates, news media representatives and guests to the area, who will fill 16,000 rooms in more than 100 local hotels. These visitors will eat in local restaurants and visit the many area attractions. According to estimates by Tampa Bay & Company (the former Convention & Visitors Bureau), the average overnight Tampa visitor can be expected to spend an average of $405 a day while here.

The construction sector, too, will benefit.

The job of converting the Times Forum, one of America's premiere sports arenas, into the site of a historymaking national political convention is a massive one, requiring approximately 50,000 man-hours of effort, with some 200 to 300 workers involved in the project each day.

Wireless users may notice fewer lost calls and faster downloads thanks to the efforts of AT&T, the "Official Wireless Provider" of the Tampa Bay Host Committee and the Republican National Convention, which is ensuring wireless Internet service at 85 locations covering more than 1,500 square miles in and around the Tampa Bay area. The improved wireless service will assure reliable voice and data communication in hotels and convention venues throughout the region.

AT&T has also added 400 extra layers of frequency to service the region, the equivalent of adding lanes to a highway. The company has invested in three new cell sites to improve network coverage as well as more than 200 wireless Wi-Fi "hot spots" throughout the area.

The enhanced capacity is essential as we accommodate the data needs of tens of thousands of smart phones, laptops and tablets.

Within the Tampa Bay Times Forum itself, we have installed acoustical equipment that will enhance sound quality for future conventions and concerts alike. The building was designed as a hockey arena, not a convention hall, and our modifications will make the arena a more appealing venue for future conventions and concerts.

To meet the convention's power requirements, we will extend the Times Forum's electrical capacity by two megawatts, installing new subpanels to improve energy utilization.

There will also be other improvements, of course, that will be less obvious, including the installation of optical fiber to connect the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center by locally headquartered Bright House Networks.

The 15,000 journalists who will descend upon Tampa Bay this month will help leave a lasting impression by shining the international spotlight on this great region and its many attractions, giving the community once-in-a-lifetime publicity. The result will be that people the world over learn what those of us here in Tampa Bay already know — the region is a great place to live, work and play.

Indeed, convention employees, many who relocated to Tampa Bay to help plan the convention, have been investing their personal time to help improve the community that has generously welcomed us.

At St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital, convention staff joined volunteers from local credit unions, the hospital and the National Journal Group to plant sensory gardens, paint pavers and assemble equipment for a new therapeutic playground that will provide pleasure and healing to kids with special needs and those who suffered traumatic injuries.

Each enhancement, whether visible to the naked eye or not, will go a long way toward helping market downtown Tampa and the Tampa Bay region as an appealing future site for business relocation, conventions and meetings.

William Harris is CEO of the 2012 Republican National Convention Committee on Arrangements.

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