Getting ready for Obama: Prep, parking, and more

Flowers+planted+in+front+of+the+arena.+Photo+by+Tiffany+Salameh

Flowers planted in front of the arena. Photo by Tiffany Salameh

Cassidy Alexander

With President Barack Obama less than 24 hours away from stepping on UNF soil, Spinnaker checked in with UNF Vice President of Public Relations Sharon Ashton to see how the university is preparing for the visit, and if there’s anything else students need to know before the big day.

Preparations

For the most part, Ashton said, it’s business as usual for physical facilities and the grounds crew — cleaning our campus, tending to plants and making sure UNF looks good.

“We’re just focusing those efforts over in the Arena area,” Ashton said.

UNF employees can be seen laying mulch, pressure washing the sidewalk and buildings, and generally sprucing up the area around the Arena.

The UNF Police Department is also gearing up for the president’s visit, and Ashton said they’re working closely with the Secret Service to ensure the rally is a safe event for everyone. Ashton is unable to disclose any more details about event security.

Parking

Ashton expects a large crowd of people to come to the event, and suggests students with midday or morning classes get to school 45 minutes early, park in Lot 53 or 55, and ride the shuttle onto campus.

Lot 18 has been rented by the campaign for attendees to park in.

“There are enough available spaces when you look at our campus as a whole to handle this event,” Ashton said when asked if lots 53 and 55 have enough spaces to handle students.

Ashton said people who try to park in Lot 18 will be asked to show their ticket or email confirmation to the rally. Students will not be permitted to park there. If you have a blue pass, however, you’ll still be allowed to park in the garages, including the Arena garage.

Parking Services will be selling modified day passes, and if you purchase a pass on Nov. 3 you will not be permitted to park in the Arena garage.

Profit

The Clinton campaign will be spending about $46,000 to rent space at the university for the event.

“The prices are still being changed, so as we move forward if they decide you know what we need an additional custodian here and an additional parking attendant here, it’s constantly being updated,” Ashton said.

The cost includes both physical space and personnel to help with the event.

Prestige

The Arena is set up to hold a 6,927 people for the rally, Ashton said. Students were able to get tickets Tuesday and Wednesday on campus, and anyone can RSVP to attend online.

Ashton estimates that the campaign has also given UNF several hundred tickets to different student groups to give them special access. Those 12 groups include the LGBT Center, the African-American Student Union, political science majors, the Hicks Honors College, and faculty members.

Additionally, students in the Presidential Envoys, Swoop Squad and public relations majors were given the opportunity to help out with organizing the event. Ashton said seeing what goes into an event of this magnitude is a great learning opportunity.

‘“The university has never had a sitting president visit,” Ashton said. The visit is also drawing more than 100 members of the press to campus, which is good for a university that’s trying to expand its reach.

Ashton said that’s good news for the university, because the more people hear about UNF, the more we’re on their minds.

“So if someone was following the basketball team last spring, and now they hear the president is on our campus, it’s a constant reminder of the university,” Ashton said.

Patience

Ashton asked that the campus community be patient on Thursday.

“This is one day out of the year that we are inconvenienced,” she said. “But it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to be up close to the leader of the free world.”

While the event is political in nature, Ashton asks that people look past party lines for the day and consider the opportunity UNF has been given.

“Regardless of what your politics are, it’s not very often that somebody gets to be in the same room as the sitting president.”

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