JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The last time Florida hosted the Republican National Convention was in Tampa in 2012.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was the Chairman of the Florida GOP at that time. The current Florida GOP Chairman, State Senator Joe Gruters, told First Coast News having a republican mayor and governor played a big role in Jacksonville landing the convention.
"There's no question it's going to be tough, but that's why Jacksonville was chosen because you have to not only have local cooperation but also state cooperation," Gruters said.
The official announcement that the most prominent parts of the Republican National Convention are coming to Jacksonville, including President Trump's acceptance speech, comes less than 75 days from the start of the event. Cities usually spend years planning for an event of this magnitude.
"What a surprise for Florida," Gruters said. "It's something we never could have expected even a couple weeks ago, but we knew for a couple of days it was probably going to be Jacksonville and it makes sense. It's a great way to say Florida is open for business. We are ready. We can handle this."
While some of the more formal business meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, Gruters said he expects tens of thousands of people will come to Jacksonville for the convention.
"We're going to make sure that all the visitors and guests and the delegates and alternates all have that convention type experience in Jacksonville," Gruters said. "We've been very busy over the last couple weeks to make sure we can get the venues and hotels and everything ready to go."
In light of the pandemic, Gruters would not say if masks will be required at the convention.
"You're going to see a lot of testing both prior to the event, during the event, screening, a lot of checks to make sure that everybody is healthy so we can ensure a safe and secure and successful event, no one wants to put anyone in jeopardy," Gruters said.
The convention will take place in Jacksonville from August 24 through August 27, 2020.
"We're going to put on the experience just like a normal convention," he explains. "We want people to have a good time. We want to be able to showcase our vision to the country. We want to have multiple speeches on multiple days from Republican leaders across this great country."
As for the crowd size at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena he said only time will tell.
"I think the capacity is 15,000, but once they do the configuration it holds a lost less, but I expect to have lots of different venues full, lots of different events taking place surrounding the convention itself, and this is a great opportunity for the president to showcase his vision to the country on why he should be elected."