Obama's acceptance speech moved to TWC arena due to weather concerns



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Crews were breaking down the massive set up at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday now that President Barack Obama's speech has been moved.

Democratic National Convention organizers have moved the president's acceptance speech to Time Warner Cable Arena because of a threat for thunderstorms Thursday night.

By 8 p.m., crews had already revealed the green turf of the stadium as dozens of workers took down all the staging. The decision was made early Wednesday by the DNC committee because of the threat of bad weather.

"We felt the safety being a primary concern for our volunteers and our attendees, that it was the smart thing to do, " campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds said.

SPECIAL NOTE: The DNC host committee said that Pres. Obama will address community credential holders in a conference call at 1:20 p.m. Thursday.  Call information will be emailed directly to community credential-holders.

"We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday's proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests," said DNC Host Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan.

"The energy and enthusiasm for our convention in Charlotte has been overwhelming and we share the disappointment of over 65,000 people who signed up for community credentials to be there with the president in person.  We encourage our community credential holders and Americans across the country to continue to come together with their friends and neighbors to watch and participate in history.  The president will speak to these credential holders on a national conference call tomorrow afternoon, and we will work with the campaign to ensure that those unable to attend tomorrow's event will be invited to see the president between now and election day," Kerrigan said in a statement.

Officials did not mention the cost of changing the venue of Thursday's night speech, but reports show renting a similiar football stadium during the 2008 convention in Denver cost the DNC committee $2.3 million.

Officials said vehicle, pedestrian and other security restrictions for the area surrounding the arena will remain in place through early Friday morning.

Road closures and parking and pedestrian restrictions that were scheduled to be implemented near the stadium will be lifted, including restrictions on Interstate 277.

Organizers kept a close eye on the weather all day Wednesday. 

While the forecast still calls for scattered storms to pop up Thursday afternoon, Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologist Keith Monday said the bigger threat for stormy weather should shift south of uptown by the evening hours.

The latest forecast models Wednesday morning still show heavy downpours firing up on Thursday afternoon. So, since the DNCC had to make the call early Wednesday, it makes sense to err on the side of caution, Monday said.

Organizers had said they would only move the speech if there is a threat of severe weather. They said they would not move it just for rain.

The Republican party issued a statement Wednesday responding to the president's speech being moved.

"Enthusiasm for President Obama is so low that he's being forced to downgrade his convention events left and right," said RNC representative Matt Connelly.  "First the DNC had to cancel their opening event at Charlotte Motor Speedway due to low enthusiasm, now President Obama is being forced to move his acceptance speech to a smaller venue just to avoid the embarrassment of speaking to an empty stadium. After four years of failure on the economy, it's clear that Americans are looking for actual solutions, not another speech full of empty promises."

Political analyst Dr. Michael Bitzer talked to Channel 9 Wednesday about the rumor that the speech was not moved because of weather, but rather due to the fear of not being able to fill all the seats at the stadium.

“Based on previous night’s activity level in Time Warner Cable Arena, I would find it very difficult to believe that they cannot fill every stadium seat and have an overflow crowd for the acceptance speech if it was going to be held in the stadium,” Bitzer said. “The energy level among the delegates and among people in the city is very high right now. I don’t think there was going to be a problem filling those 72,000 seats.”

Rain and lightning have already put a damper on events this week.  Monday's CarolinaFest was cut short when heavy downpours hit uptown.

The biggest issue DNC organizers face now is what to do with all of the people who have passes for Thursday.

The host committee said that Obama will address community credential holders in a conference call on Thursday.  Call information will be emailed directly to community credential holders.

Channel 9 ran into a line of people at the Obama campaign headquarters off West Boulevard. They said they were thinking they could get some last-minute tickets to hear Obama speak. When they showed up, they said they found out the venue had been moved and no tickets were left.

One man said he put in almost 10 hours of volunteer time for the campaign so he and his aunt could hear the president.

“When I call her back, she’s going to be crushed,” said John McCombs.  “She’s been a Democratic voter for 60-something years.  She’s an avid supporter of Obama.”

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