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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Joe Henderson Columns

Tampa proves once again it can handle large events

It's understandable if, while looking around the city this morning, residents have a Groundhog Day flashback to that eureka moment when Bill Murray exclaims, "They're all gone!" Well, they're not all gone, but a lot of them are and more will soon join them. The barricades are coming down, and the roads are reopening. Another day or two and we'll be free to focus again on the things that really matter here. I mean, after all, football season is starting. Whether you believe the inconvenience and effort required to pull off this event was worth it probably depends on how directly you were affected. They'll still be measuring the economic impact on Tampa for a while now, but from what I saw the city proved — again — it can handle big-time things. Tampa has had four Super Bowl games here and other high-profile sports things, but those were basically celebrations. Officials told us that this was a different beast and they were right. One look at the fenced-off streets and the overwhelming show of security would confirm that.
It was hard not to think of everything that could go wrong. Folks here were basically given over to paranoia for weeks leading up to this thing, what with the constant warnings that anarchists had plans to reduce the city to rubble. Toss in the scare from Hurricane Isaac, which delayed the convention by a day, and we see how easily this thing could have gotten out of control. The best thing a host city can do is be efficient and competent. Well, and lucky. We got lucky when Isaac veered west, and there was always the potential that protests could turn violent. Those are things a city can't control. Handle the things you're supposed to, though, and it's a victory. Fail at those things, and you can expect to be labeled as a rube 'burg that isn't ready for prime time. Tampa didn't fail. But did the city win? We probably won't know that for a while. Planners were specific about why they went after an event like this. While having hotel rooms filled for a week was great for tourism and it was a blast seeing the city's skyline shown all over creation, there was a longer-term goal here of convincing businesses that this is a good place to be. Those of us who live here have seen the dark side of this economy. I mean, when everyone learned that Clint Eastwood was scheduled to be a surprise guest at Thursday's Mitt Romney coronation, people were whistling the theme to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." I had a different Eastwood flick in mind, more apropos to our particular situation: "A Fistful Of Dollars." Or even "A Few Dollars More." This effort was about jobs, jobs, and did I mention, jobs? If we get that out of this adventure, then it was worth all the hassle and jabs from "The Daily Show." The Republicans came here to nominate a candidate, but Tampa's needs are more basic. The city wanted everyone to have a good time, of course, but the underlying message was always, "What's in it for us?" It was pretty draining, to be honest. So as glad as everyone was to have the GOP here, people will understand if we're equally happy they're all gone. We're all a little tired right now. Oh, and it's football season.


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