The Welcoming Party is the first where both delegates and reporters covering the RNC will hang out together. It takes place on Sunday night, August 26.
The CEO for the Host Committee, Matt Becker, said there will be 3-D projections as part of the party, and that his group is working with local theme parks to help in entertainment. "We're trying to make this event almost exclusively feel, just all Tampa Bay, and not political at all." He said the entertainment for the event will be disclosed by August 1.
Officials also discussed the creation of a mobile app that can be used on smartphones and tablets for the convention, the first time ever such a device will be available for the once every four years political event.
Becker said the app is a joint effort between the Host Committee, the convention staff and AT&T. "It is in its development stages. We hope to have it launched the second week of August (between August 10-15)."
He said it will encompass a lot of activities that the Host Committee is working on, including a 'Go Party' card and interactive maps. And it may include games on the app that would encourage users to sponsor local businesses. "We're trying to do everything we can to get people focused on going into local Tampa Bay businesses."
It would be the first phone app for a convention. The revolutionary iPhone from Apple wasn't created until early 2007, android phones not until '08. Ken Jones with the Host Committee said such apps were almost non-existent at the last GOP convention in St. Paul, and while that may not be completely accurate, there's no doubt that the technology has become much more mainstream over the past four years.
"These mobile apps are the wave of today, and they'll be used extensively at this convention."
Amanda Whitelaw, Tampa Bay Host Committee Events and Volunteers Director, said months ago that the convention needed around 7,500 volunteers to help out at all of the various events taking place. She now says that the Host Committee is close to 85 percent to that goal, with the the only additional need being for hotel greeters.
The Host Committee will also hold a pep rally for volunteers on August 11 at the Straz Center. At that event, the "Voice of Tampa Bay" will be selected. That will be from a final four set of volunteers pre-selected via Facebook who have already begun to submit videos of their renditions of the national anthem. The winner will have a chance to sing at one of the Host Committee's events during the week of the convention. Voting will take place beginning today by going to the Host Committee's website.
When asked about the potential for gridlock in downtown Tampa the week of the convention, Host Committee president and CEO Ken Jones said he couldn't speculate on that scenario just yet. The Secret Service is scheduled to announce within the next few weeks the actual "perimeter" of the RNC, meaning the area that will be blocked off near the Times Forum for everyone who doesn't have a special badge to get inside the Forum and Convention Center.
Jones said undoubtedly the convention might temporarily inconvenience some locations downtown, but said people needed to take a broader look at the economic development opportunities that will take place throughout the Bay area.
"Cities are getting better and better at it," he said. Jones added said downtown will be exciting during the convention, and he intends to bring his young children into the city to observe the activities.
"I do think Tampa will be accessible. Will you have some traffic? Yes, you'll have some traffic. Is it going to be like leaving town when there's a big concert or a Lightning game going on downtown? At certain times, yes. At all hours of the day, probably not."
Jones has attended 5 previous political conventions. He said the unknown factor was going "beyond the peaceful protesters. Are there other people intent on causing disruptions? Sure there are. And the Secret Service and other law enforcement will hopefully deal with them effectively, and make sure that we keep the streets open and people can maneuver."
But he added, it was speculation at this point.