President Barack Obama will give a campaign speech at Hillsborough County Community College's Dale Mabry campus today, the first of what are likely to be many campaign appearances by the president in the Tampa area and Florida. Obama has been to Florida and the Tampa Bay area more than a dozen times since taking office, for official visits and fundraisers. His most recent visit was a stop at the Port of Tampa in April to announce trade initiatives.
The HCC appearance will be his first public re-election campaign event in the state.
Tickets for the event were all distributed within a few hours after it was announced Tuesday. The campaign expects standing room only in the HCC campus gym.
The Obama campaign said it couldn't say how many tickets were given out.
The center normally seats 1,500 in bleachers and could hold more depending on how it's configured.
Tampa can also expect late-afternoon traffic snarls in the area of Dale Mabry Highway near Tampa Bay Boulevard as roads are closed or movement slowed for security.
The Tampa Police Department won't say when or where they might redirect traffic because of Secret Service limitations on details about presidential travel.
The event will begin shortly after 4 p.m. and is likely to last an hour or more. HCC officials expect the campus to be closed off about 11 a.m., with only the Lois Avenue entrance open after that.
The Dale Mabry campus last hosted a sitting president, Bill Clinton, in March 1995.
Al Gore made an appearance at the school's Ybor City campus in February 2000.
Today's event won't affect classes or students because there are no Friday afternoon sessions during summer, only administrative work, said HCC spokeswoman Ashley Carl.
HCC President Ken Atwater, board chairman Randall Reid and Dale Mabry campus President Robert Chunn are scheduled to welcome Obama.
"I'm sure (Atwater) will use the opportunity to put some issues before him that we have concerns about," Carl said, including student financial aid.
HCC took in more than $50 million in revenue from federal Pell grants last year, but this year, for the first time, students can't use Pell grants for summer school, she said.
Meanwhile, Congress is still at an impasse over steps to prevent a doubling of interest rates on new student loans, scheduled to occur at the end of June.
The Obama campaign gave HCC tickets to distribute and some went to nursing and emergency medical service students and HOPE scholars, a program for male black and Hispanic.
President Obama’s Tampa visit could add to rush hour delays today.
The President is speaking at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry campus around 4:15 p.m. Doors to the event open at 1 p.m. and a packed gymnasium of roughly 3,000 people is expected.
There will be increased security around the community college and on Dale Mabry Highway near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Tampa Bay Boulevard. Commuters may experience some spectator delays beginning in the early afternoon with the usual onslaught of campaigners and protesters along Dale Mabry in this area. College officials expect the campus to be closed at 11 a.m. with only the Lois Avenue entrance open after that.
Commuters should also expect possible intermittent lane closures before and after the President arrives. For security reasons a detailed route and possible lane closures or rerouting of traffic is not disclosed.
President Obama is slated to speak after 4 p.m., and will likely depart during Friday rush hour. The community college is located fairly close to Tampa International Airport so any traffic delays created by the Presidential motorcade should not last very long.
-- Leslee Lacey, WFLA Traffic Reporter