Election 2012
6:07 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Tips From Tampa For Handling A National Convention

Life is slowly getting back to normal in Tampa after the Republican National Convention concluded Thursday night. Some businesses, restaurants and schools there offered these tips for Charlotte residents about how to handle a national convention coming to town.   

The main events were in downtown Tampa, and that area turned into a secure zone on steroids, in the words of Marshall Rainey.

"They’ve got enough police here to control thousands of protesters, and there’s nothing even close to that," Rainey said. "And I didn’t mention, the helicopters are constantly circling, so it really is like you’re in some kind of a flyover zone or something."

Rainey works at a big law firm downtown. A lot of the attorneys there decided to work from home or take a vacation this week.

He said if you’re working in Charlotte’s secure zone next week, be prepared for a lot of checkpoints, traffic and inconvenience.  

Partly for that reason, restaurants and other businesses in uptown shouldn’t assume they’ll be swamped with customers, said Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

"If you have a small business, and you are in the middle of what’s going to be the center of the universe for a week, I’m not sure those expectations are manageable," Burdick said.

Now don’t get the wrong idea – Burdick said it was a very good week for a lot of Tampa businesses. But it was also a really slow one for others. She said the ones that did best sold something that people in the convention needed besides food.

"We have a very fine men’s store – had a great week because he was selling belts and ties and he was in an easily accessible area just outside the gate of the secure area," Burdick said.

This next bit of advice may seem obvious, but Linda Devine said there are things you can prepare for and things you can’t. She’s the vice president for operations and planning at the University of Tampa, which is downtown.

She and about ten other staff members spent the week in a campus dorm room so they’d be readily available if something happened. She said everything went smoothly, but there was one big surprise on campus.

"I was coming back from lunch with a colleague, and we crossed the river and we looked over the side of the bridge and we saw a 6-foot alligator," Devine said.

She said the waterline around campus was higher because of then-Tropical Storm Isaac, and that must’ve encouraged the gator to come check it out. Don’t worry, no one was hurt.

Devine handled it with a sense of humor, and that gets to another piece of advice she has  – don’t forget to enjoy the week.

"My assistant said, why don’t we take a walk downtown?" Devine said. "And I thought, yeah, I want to experience this. And so we went downtown and walked around for a while, and I think it just then struck me this is really nice for Tampa to be able to show the world who we are."