Critics: Tampa dangerously underestimating downtown concert size

Some people are concerned with security for the College Football Championship events.

Tampa, Fla. -- If you or your family head down to Curtis Hixon Park for the free concerts taking place this weekend, will you be safe?

That's the question being raised by people who say the city of Tampa is vastly underprepared for the size of the crowd that could show up.

 It's all part of the 2017 College Football Playoff celebration.

With the eyes of the country and the better power the world on Tampa this weekend, and of course Monday night for the big championship game, the concern among some people is that while the city claims it is prepared for anything that may come our way, they are leaving the public vulnerable to a possible terrorist attack.

The road they’re concerned about is Ashley Drive, which runs along the park’s east side.

One of those critics is Solomon Vereen, who knows his shows. He's been doing it for 30 years. And Vereen is worried that Tampa is seriously underestimating the crowd size for this weekend’s free concerts at Curtis Hixon Park.

“Oh, it's going to happen. I see concerts like this all the time. This is what I do for a living. And this park is too small,” said Vereen. “When you bring a superstar like Usher here, and you have a small venue, you're going to have people gushing out two or three blocks south of us here.”

Add to that, the Saturday concert with Flo Rida and Usher’s Sunday night shows are both free of charge.

“I know cops are around here, but you're still going to have people that are going to want to jaywalk and then you're gonna have people that are flying through lights,” said Lindsey Martinez, who’s been to smaller shows at the same park. “So, I don't think it's a really good idea.

Here’s the big problem -- the overflow crowd would spill onto Ashley Drive.

Yet, despite the warnings, Tampa is not shutting the road down.

“A lot of people get off the interstate at Ashley. We plan on having that open. If for any reason we need to do anything about that, we will notify everybody about it. At this point we have no plans to do that,” said Tampa Police Spokesman Steve Hegarty.

Critics say that's a big mistake that leaves the crowd vulnerable to a terrorist truck attack similar to the ones in Nice, France, and Berlin, Germany.

So, why not bring in garbage trucks to block the roads here in Tampa as the NYPD did during the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square?

“With stuff like that, it's main events, or large events, the people are -- it triggers them,” said concertgoer Mikaela Herres, “So, I mean it's a possibility. I hope not.”

But Tampa officials, who've been planning this for months now, say the public can trust their experience, and the intelligence network they’ve got in place. 

“We have a robust terrorism task force that we will host here in Tampa Bay, along with our FBI partners,” Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward said this week. “So, we are up to speed with everything that's going on in that realm, that arena, and are looking forward to a very successful event.”


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