TAMPA, Fla. - Summer typically brings thousands of people to Tampa Bay for events, including conventions. Despite spring shows being called off, organizers for summer gatherings are weighing the risk with the reward and some have decided it's worth it.
Visit Tampa Bay said 32 conventions are on the books from June through September. Organizers generally say they are taking steps to make sure those gatherings are safe.
“We’ve been holding on to a big biker’s rally that’s due to come to the fairgrounds at the end of June,” said Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “[We also have] Tampa Bay Comic Con. We actually have the Florida Bar Examiner’s still coming to Tampa and having the Florida Bar here.”
Corrada said bringing tens of thousands of people to the area will likely look different because of COVID-19.
“[Normally] we’ve got table seating and there are 12 to a table, or you’ve got auditorium seating and everybody’s shoulder to shoulder. I don’t think that’s going to be the norm in the foreseeable future,” said Corrada.
Tampa Bay Comic Con announced on Facebook Tuesday it has the green light for the July event at the Tampa Convention Center. Organizers said they will take temperatures of attendees and the convention center will increase cleaning, add sanitizer stations, and limit capacity.
Some attendees are excited the con is still on.
“I’ve always been cognizant, just go wash your hands a couple of times while you’re there,” said Adam Locascio, of Land O’ Lakes, who plans to attend the Tampa Bay Comic Con. “Honestly, I’m just going to do my best effort to stay healthy and do that, and fortunately, I’m just not the type of person who lives in fear of those kinds of things.”
Others feel it’s too early. Illustrator Toni Green had an artist table lined up but decided to pull out.
“Having attended in the past, I know that social distancing is not something that’s normally existent at comic cons, and I think that’s why probably a lot of other conventions have canceled,” said Green of Largo, adding that she looks forward to the event every year. “I don’t see it being that different in two months enough so that I would feel safe.”
Visit Tampa Bay said right now it’s all about consumer confidence. Corrada believes it will build as the world learns more about the virus.
“Some folks are more risk-averse than others. I think it’s a personal choice, and you really have to make that decision based on how comfortable you feel and your confidence,” said Corrada.
Some convention attendees said they would like to see people wear masks. Visit Tampa Bay said there are 100-plus conventions lined up from the end of September through September 2021.