Behind the scenes, the RNC is transforming Tampa Bay Times Forum from a lowly ice hockey rink into the backdrop for their most important meeting of the last Olympiad. The site will host the Republican National Convention in August, and it needs a lot of work before it can serve as the stage for Mitt Romney’s official nomination.
Much of that work is already underway. Two weeks ago, the GOP kicked in $260,000 to upgrade the forum’s sound system, an action that stadium officials and Republican staffers both agree was sorely needed. The acoustics in the cavernous ice rink can “confuse the ear” if not corrected, Forum manager Ray Chandler pointed out. In addition to the acoustical upgrades, new electrical equipment and stages are being installed by contractors at breakneck speed. With less than a month to go until the convention, there’s little room for error.
Happily, most of the upgrades brought on by the Republicans’ purchases will benefit future Forum tenants long after the convention has passed. “Concerts will be greatly improved,” said Chandler, who also mentioned that the improvements wouldn’t have been possible without the GOP’s help. “It turned out not to be in our [the Lightning] budget, but when the convention came, adding the acoustical solution became possible.”
The improvements should give the RNC’s event (an estimated 50,000 people will pack the Forum on August 27) an edge in the competition for media attention with the rival Democratic convention later in the year. Republicans feel their convention will be a bright spot for contrast with the Democrat’s own ceremony in September. Dozens of prominent Democrats are skipping their convention, citing close elections and the need to stay at home and campaign. Some have speculated, however, that Democrats want to distance themselves from Obama, who they see as a liability in this election.
But Democrats should be happy regardless of how their event turns out. It can’t possibly be as awful as their 1968
riot convention in Chicago…