CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena, leaving tens of thousands of Triangle supporters with tickets to Bank of America Stadium empty-handed.
Hilary Towle planned to take a charted bus Thursday morning from Carrboro with other credential holders before the potential for severe weather at the stadium forced the change in venue.
“I’m incredibly disappointed,” the 23-year-old Chapel Hill resident said Wednesday. “I understand the need for safety, and respect the decision to have the speech moved indoors, but wish there had been more forethought put into a plan B.”
Towle said she wanted to feel the campaign’s energy, but it won’t change her feelings toward Obama.
“I still admire and respect him and will be voting for him,” she said. “But to be able to attend the DNC and hear him give a nomination acceptance speech in person is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most, including myself, that we now don’t have.”
The campaign distributed about 65,000 tickets to the public for the stadium event, but the arena holds just 15,000. No one with “community credentials” will be allowed into the arena for the president’s speech, which is limited to delegates and convention officials, according to the Obama campaign.
About 6,000 Triangle residents volunteered nine hours for the campaign to earn a seat in the stadium, and thousands more waited in long lines last month to get the public passes. Obama’s campaign could not say how many in the Triangle received the passes but promised a conference call with Obama before the speech for those who could no longer attend. A future campaign event in North Carolina for credential holders is also being considered.
A rally would go a long way toward softening the political effect in the state’s tight presidential race, said Michael Bitzer, a political expert at Catawba College.
“If they don’t, then it’s a big disappointment and could impact energy and enthusiasm going to the general campaign,” said Bitzer, who is at the convention. “They need to continue last night’s enthusiasm and keep it going.”
North Carolina’s Democratic candidate for governor, Walter Dalton, was expected to speak at the stadium – a prime opportunity to reach a huge audience including many potential voters. He is still expected to take the stage at the arena.
Mark Laskowski, a social studies instructor at Ravenscroft, a high school in Raleigh, planned to take 10 students to Charlotte to hear Obama.
The students volunteered for the campaign over the summer to receive the tickets, Laskowski said, and even though they could have gone on their own, the school wanted to turn the event into a learning experience.
“The opportunity to be at a convention, that is a rare thing,” he said. “But in no way am I upset. You’ve got to be safe.”
“Maybe I’m just not as mature as Mr. Laskowski,” said Rosie Waring, 16, a junior on the trip. “I’m pretty disappointed.”
Democratic convention officials said they monitored weather forecasts in deciding whether to move the speech from the football stadium. With several reports predicting thunderstorms Thursday, officials decided to relocate the event “to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests,” convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said in a news release.
National Weather Service forecasts showed a 2 percent to 5 percent chance of severe thunderstorms developing during the day that could produce winds of at least 58 mph or hail measuring at least an inch in diameter.
Even if the storms don’t reach severe level, meteorologists said there still is a possibility for cloud-to-ground lightning.
Obama for America Communications Director Brent Colburn expressed sympathy with the community credential holders who will be affected. He and other officials encouraged them to watch the live broadcast at home and to hold block parties.
“We share their frustration and disappointment,” Colburn said. “This isn’t a decision we wanted to make. It was a decision we felt we had to make.”
Staff writer Austin Baird and the Charlotte Observer contributed to this report.