1. Florida Politics

RNC secure perimeter to bring miles of concrete and steel barriers to both sides of Tampa Bay

The Secret Service is said to be seeking portable barriers and metal fencing for the RNC in Tampa similar to the barriers above at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
The Secret Service is said to be seeking portable barriers and metal fencing for the RNC in Tampa similar to the barriers above at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
Published Jul. 13, 2012

TAMPA — The Secret Service plans to ring the Republican National Convention with miles of steel and concrete, including fences 8 feet tall and vehicle barriers that can stop a 7-ton truck barrelling in at 30 mph.

The agency has yet to release information saying where it will put its secure perimeter. But the Secret Service has begun telling private contractors what it needs to create lines of defense in both Tampa and St. Petersburg, where Tropicana Field will host the RNC's official welcome party.

The barriers will have to stop everything from a water balloon to a car bomb. According to a request for proposals issued this week, the 8-foot fences must be all-steel, difficult to climb and have a 1/8th-inch steel mesh to disperse any liquid thrown at them.

The portable vehicle barriers will consist of 32-inch-high retractable steel plates. Their stopping power is measured against a set of standards created by the U.S. Department of State for protecting embassies from runaway trucks weighing up to 15,000 pounds.

At the GOP convention in 2008, these sorts of intense security measures surprised some people in St. Paul, Minn., who said it hurt business.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn does not expect the same shock.

"I think, initially, people will be curious, but I think they also recognize the potential risk and that the Secret Service is doing what they're charged to do, which is to mitigate the risk," he said. "If an impenetrable fence is what's required, that's what's required."

In Tampa, the Secret Service is seeking 33 portable vehicle barriers, more than 10,000 linear feet of concrete barriers, 7,500 feet of anti-scale fencing, nearly 13,000 feet of other fencing and 4,500 feet of "bike rack" barricades.

In St. Petersburg, it expects to use 13 portable vehicle barriers, 5,000 feet of anti-scale fencing and 21,300 linear feet of concrete barriers with fencing.

The agency's request for proposals says the winning contractor must be able to work from about Aug. 16 through Sept. 3.

What this means for baseball fans was not clear Thursday. The Tampa Bay Rays have six home games the week before the Aug. 26 welcome party at the Trop.

The Secret Service's invitation to bidders does not say what the installation timeline will be, but both sides say they'll work to minimize inconvenience to fans.

"We are working with the city and everybody there to lessen the impact on the community as much as we can," Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said.

"At this point we are not aware of the details of their security plan, but we will work diligently with the RNC to make sure our fans are not inconvenienced," Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said in an email.

• • •

The perimeter's location is arguably the biggest logistical decision of the convention. Where it goes will affect businesses, commuters, protesters and residents on Harbour Island.

The Secret Service is looking at releasing information about its security plans four to six weeks in advance of the RNC, now slightly more than six weeks away.

Speaking to a group in downtown Tampa this spring, Buckhorn said the perimeter could go as far north as Brorein Street.

Tampa officials also have said they assume it will circle the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Tampa Convention Center, Embassy Suites Hotel, Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and maybe the Tampa Bay History Center.

The Platt Street bridge, which sends 34,000 cars and trucks a day into a tunnel under the convention center, will be closed. Other closures could include the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, which carries about 50,000 vehicles on a typical August weekday, and the bridge from the convention center to Harbour Island.

The Secret Service will pay for the secure perimeter and will control everything inside it.

Typically, the agency brings in bomb-sniffing dogs, counter-assault and counter-sniper teams, plus its own uniformed officers to work metal detectors at the entrances.

Beyond the perimeter, the responsibility for handling crowds belongs to Tampa police and about 3,000 more officers from around Florida.

• • •

For a national political convention, security planning entails everything from issuing credentials to what officials have called "bomb blast analysis."

In other words, how far away do potential threats need to be kept to protect convention facilities?

There are standards for these decisions. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireworks and Explosives has calculated "lethal blast ranges" for car and truck bombs. For a sedan with 1,000 pounds of explosives packed in the trunk, anyone within 125 feet of the blast could be killed. The range at which life-threatening injuries could be minimized from such a blast is 1,750 feet.

Blast analyses at previous conventions led to the closure of an interstate next to the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston and a new route for a protest march outside the St. Paul RNC in 2008.

In Tampa, the same kind of analyses apply to the Selmon Expressway, which overlooks the forum and passes next to the convention center, the working hub for 15,000 RNC journalists.

In May, a convention official told visiting journalists the outermost perimeter would include a vehicle checkpoint. There, drivers will need a placard issued by the Secret Service and will go through a security sweep before driving on.

Closer in, there will be a second perimeter and a second check of credentials to get into the convention campus.

Getting inside the forum or convention center will mean going through a metal detector at a third checkpoint.

• • •

So far, the companies lining up for perimeter work are from outside the Tampa Bay area.

As of Thursday, three companies from North Carolina, Texas and Maryland had put their names on a list of vendors interested in the barriers contract. Another four companies from New York, North Carolina, Colorado and Washington were interested in providing the Secret Service with generators and other equipment.


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.