JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Not long after Jacksonville was announced to host the celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for re-election, a video featuring Mayor Lenny Curry was posted on Twitter.
“Jacksonville, I know what you’re thinking. Are we big enough, bold enough to host the RNC?” Curry says in the video. “What city would take on the Republican National Convention with just 75 days to pull it off? Probably not many, but Jacksonville isn’t just any city. Here in the River City, we do things big and bold, and we’ll be ready.”
During a News4Jax Facebook Live conversation on Thursday night, a number of viewers shared concerns over how Jacksonville will handle such a large event. Others were looking forward to it, comparing the event to 2005 when Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl, when 100,000 visitors filled the streets of downtown.
The River City became the smallest city ever to host a Super Bowl. To handle the lack of hotel space, five cruise ships were docked along the St. Johns River. Approximately 800 buses were used as shuttles.
But you don’t have to travel back 15 years to see other large events hosted in Northeast Florida. Since 1892, The Players Championship has been held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra. The four day event brings in an estimate $151 million for Northeast Florida, raising a record $9.25 million in 2019 for charity.
In 2016, The Players executive director said nearly 55% of ticket purchases originated for outside Northeast Florida’s five county area
In January, nearly 62,000 fans packed TIAA Bank Field for the Gator Bowl between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Indiana Hoosiers. Organizers say the game provides nearly $16 million to Northeast Florida, with more than $500,000 donated to local charities.
When it was announced last fall that the Florida-Georgia rivalry would stay in Jacksonville until at least 2023, there was a collective sigh nearly as loud as the crowd that packs TIAA Bank Field every year for the game. In 2018, the city said the sellout crowd of more than 83,000 people brought more than $30 million to the area.
The executive director of the Duval GOP said it will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. with more information about the convention coming to Jacksonville.
Extra security for President Trump’s convention speech
Security for a national presidential convention isn’t easy. There’s general security, protection of the candidate and expected to be protests and demonstrations.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson was the spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office when the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2005, and he said the two events are similar in the amount of security required.
“It has the propensity to be a logistical nightmare as far as planning,” Jefferson said. “They can pull it off. They’ve got to solicit help from local authorities, state as well as federal from all over the United States."
The former police officer added that a major different between the two events is that there were many months of planning ahead of the Super Bowl. With the last minute switch, Jacksonville leaders will only have a two-and-a-half months.
“If it does land here, they’ve got to already be working on it and work throughout the time it takes to get here,” Jefferson said. “A lot of help from a lot of people.”