TIAA Bank Field could end up playing host to President Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month.
Republican officials are attempting to move forward with the convention amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still raging in the United States. The convention is currently slated to be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, however officials are considering moving the event to an outdoor venue, according to The Washington Post.
Officials have toured both TIAA Bank Field, which hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars, and 121 Financial Ballpark, which hosts a minor league baseball team next door. TIAA Bank Field can hold more than 67,000 people, while 121 Financial Ballpark can hold 11,000 people.
A spokeswoman for the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee told Jacksonville.com on Thursday that they are intending to utilize multiple venues. A set plan, however, has not been laid out.
Trump is expected to announce a decision in the coming days.
“Jacksonville is a world-class destination with state of the art facilities,” the spokeswoman said. “In addition to Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, our baseball park and Dailey’s Place, as well as other venues will be a part of hosting this historic event here in the River City.”
TIAA Bank Field is owned by the Jacksonville City Council, not the Jaguars. The team will not be involved with the decision.
The convention was initially scheduled to be held in North Carolina, however it was moved after Gov. Roy Cooper declined to allow it to be held inside an arena without facemasks and social distancing rules, per The Washington Post.
The move to switch the convention to an outdoor venue is largely an attempt to lower the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, per the report. Trump held an indoor rally last month in Tulsa, in which many of the attendees were not wearing face masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines, and the city has since seen a spike in coronavirus cases, according to CNN.
Officials are also reportedly looking into the logistics of holding the convention outdoors, including how many people could actually safely attend and how to hold it despite potential weather concerns.
“I think the convention is a challenging situation, and a number of my colleagues have announced that they’re not going to attend,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, via the Washington Post. “And we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people.”
There were more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 133,000 deaths attributed to it. The country reported more than 59,000 new cases on Wednesday alone, a single-day record.
Florida has seen massive spikes in cases in recent weeks, too. The state has more than 232,000 confirmed cases, and averaged more than 9,000 new cases a day over the past week. Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, has more than 11,000 cases.
The Democratic National Committee was initially scheduled to hold its convention in Milwaukee, however is shifting to a mainly virtual version.
The Republican convention, which will be the fourth Republican convention held in the state, is scheduled for Aug. 24-27. The Jaguars have a preseason game scheduled for Aug. 29, which could provide for a quick turnaround at the venue. The NFL’s preseason schedule, however, is expected to be altered due to the pandemic.
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