Luring this year’s Republican National Convention to Tampa from Charlotte is, at best, an improbable long shot.
But if leaders in North Carolina insist on harming their own people, the Tampa Bay region – with the help of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – should at least try to give our own economy a much-needed shot in the arm.
Our region needs jobs, jobs, jobs, especially at hotels, restaurants and throughout the rest of our critically important tourism, hospitality, and restaurant industries. These hard-working employees have already been severely impacted by three months of coronavirus lockdowns and now face the traditionally slower summer season.
The key is for everyone here to work together. It can be done because it’s all for the betterment of Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region.
There’s just no estimate on the value of national exposure.
Bringing the convention here offers the kind of potential storyline that the Tampa Bay region – unlike Charlotte – is willing to put aside political differences in order to create jobs and prosperity for everyone.
Isn’t THAT the kind of image we want to present to the rest of the nation AND the world?
In fact, much praise should go to former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat who welcomed the 2012 GOP convention with open arms. He rolled up his sleeves to work collaboratively with Republicans, even amidst the threat of a hurricane. Tampa after all has the blueprint on file on how to host a political party national convention.
Buckhorn and so many other local leaders understood what the convention meant to Tampa.
Much the same is true now. Bringing the convention here in late summer or early fall could add a quarter of a billion dollars or more to an economy that seriously needs an influx of cash, much like the estimated $212 million that was pumped into local coffers by the 2012 convention in Tampa.
Surely, the GOP – working in earnest with local leaders such as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, also a Democrat – can come up with a mutually acceptable plan. This would enable thousands of Republican leaders to safely meet in Tampa using the latest recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tampa Bay’s regional economy cannot remain in lockdown forever.
And it’s important to note that the CDC’s recommendations are constantly evolving as the data and scientific estimates change. For instance, the federal agency has updated its original estimate on the power of ultraviolet rays to kill the virus as well as spreading it by touching surfaces.
Who knows what the CDC and the rest of the medical community will be saying three months from now since the summer’s heat usually has been effective in dissipating such viruses in the past – and Florida has plenty of heat and sunshine in August.
Weather allowing, perhaps many of the convention’s activities could take place outdoors during our balmy evenings and clear mornings. There are plenty of beautiful backdrops throughout the area that would create a number of memorable scenes.
And of course, if bad weather threatens, downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena (site of the 2012 Republican convention) along with the Tampa Convention Center would safely host many of the various GOP committee meetings and the convention’s evening gatherings. Amalie is home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and can seat more than 21,000, plus the convention floor.
Undoubtedly, such indoor-outdoor planning would add additional costs to sponsoring such a convention week. Of course, as in 2012 using Amalie and the TCC for everything may turn out to be the most practical option on such short notice.
Afterall, hosting conventions isn’t cheap. The local host committee raised $55 million in 2012 to sponsor that GOP convention in Tampa and while more money would likely be needed for a late-August or early September convention here, the return from revenue, noterity and publicity would be worth. If there is any doubt to that, why than are other major cities in Texas, Georgia and Florida vying for the opportunity?
Still, if Charlotte can’t make up its mind, Tampa Bay leaders would have to move very quickly to raise money. It’s unlikely that much, if any, of about $70 million raised by the Charlotte host committee would be available for Tampa. But you never know.
On Thursday, President Trump and Republican Party officials gave North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper a deadline of June 3 to OK the GOP’s safety plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The GOP national convention is currently scheduled for Aug. 24-27 at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, home to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. It can seat 20,000, not including space for the basketball court and delegate floor activities.
Tampa deserves to be on the national stage. A second political party national convention in 8-years and the 2021 Super Bowl in the next 8-months will keep Tampa on both the national and world stage!
Let’s all roll up our sleeves, put on our thinking caps and find a way for all of us to unify behind the good news of bringing the 2020 Republican National Convention to one of the greatest cities in America!
Jim Waurishuk is Chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. He retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel.