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'Hallway' might protect RNC attendees from heat, rain

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:06 PM
TAMPA -

Just how will thousands of Republican delegates survive the stifling heat, humidity and pouring rain of Tampa in August?

How about a giant, air-conditioned, umbilical tent stretching several blocks long called the "Hallway of Innovation."

That's one solution that the Tampa Bay Host Committee planners have on the table to tackle one of the thorniest problems of the whole weeklong Republican National Convention.

Thousands of people will line up at security checkpoints. The weather will likely top 100 degrees. Any given moment, the skies may open up with a torrential downpour, thoroughly soaking delegates who have waited years for their moment of political glory on the convention floor.

"Given the security, when you go to the convention, it's gonna be a lot like Disney – you stand in line," said Ken Jones, president and chief executive of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee. Jones joked with an audience of hotel and motel officials meeting in Tampa: "Unless you're (House Speaker) John Boehner, you're not skipping ahead in any of those lines."

So the host committee is in advanced planning for a massive, several-block-long tent that connects the staging area in the Convention Center to the convention floor at Forum a few blocks away. Because the heat and sun of August could turn that tent into an even hotter greenhouse, air conditioning will likely be mandatory.

Such tents are now commonplace at major events like golf tournaments. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival last February had a massive tent stretching several hundred yards on the beach.

Not one to miss an opportunity, Jones said Tampa's boosters consider the tube ripe territory for marketing to the captive delegates and attendees, with a gauntlet of promotional pit-stops lining the inside of the tube.

Perhaps orange juice stations featuring Florida-grown OJ, sponsored by local grocers. Perhaps an exhibit by NASCAR with a stock car or two. Perhaps exhibits from major industries like the cruise lines or electronics giants like Jabil Circuit and Tech Data.

"As they're standing in line, we want them to enjoy a positive impression of Florida," Jones said, "instead of staring down at their BlackBerry reading email."

Jones offered a few other key tips for Tampa to prosper amid the RNC.

rmullins@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7919 Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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