As divers continue to search for drivers missing and presumed dead in the aftermath of the Minneapolis bridge collapse last Wednesday, the area's event community remains guarded but upbeat, local professionals tell Special Events. At press time, five people are dead and eight missing--a toll that, due to the spectacular collapse, initially was feared to be several times higher.
"It is truly amazing that more people were not killed immediately," notes Charlie Feldbaum, head of Edina, Minn.-based Apres Party Rental. Other than one professional baseball game, no other major events have been postponed in light of the disaster, he says. His company has contacted various local and state agencies to offer tents and other rental items for relief efforts but has not yet received any requests.
Local ISES member Ryan Hanson applauds the quick support from ISES members.
"The outpouring of support from the event community around the world has been amazing," says Hanson, a planner/producer for Minneapolis-based Menttium Corp. "In the days following the event, fellow ISES members and chapters called and e-mailed our ISES chapter seeking to know how Minneapolis-St. Paul event professionals had been effected and if they could do anything to help. It was simply amazing to see these professionals from across the country and even abroad share their sympathy and support with their local counterparts."
Navigating the roads remains a challenge.
"Traffic is of course the major issue, which will be long term, and the police have been in force helping out with all the traffic being routed through the downtown," Feldbaum explains. "So far, we are finding alternate routes to avoid the areas. I have not heard anything from my drivers complaining of delays." Meet Minneapolis, the local CVB, said Monday that the core of Minneapolis' convention and visitor areas remains "relatively unaffected."
But that could change.
"My worries lie around what will happen when the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College begin their sessions later this month, " says Jodi M. Collen, CSEP, director of events and conferences for Minneapolis-based Augsburg College. "One of the campuses for the University of Minnesota is located just off where the bridge collapsed, and that major artery was probably the most frequently used method for getting to the campus. Additionally, Augsburg College is located just across the street from the university, which will also bring another 3,000 to 5,000 students, faculty and staff to the area." She adds, "Working in events, I'm particularly worried about guests being able to easily get to campus--if people are worried or frustrated about getting to campus, I worry that they just will decide not to come. Staying home is just easier!"
Others are looking even further ahead.
With the Republican National Convention slated for Minneapolis-St. Paul Sept. 1-4, 2008--sure to bring a rush of both official and unofficial special events--locals are watching to see how the impending convention will affect repair plans. Some political commentators have speculated that a tragedy so close to home could affect national spending priorities, including the war in Iraq.
"I am most interested to see how politicized this 'event'-tragedy becomes in the next year as Minneapolis-St. Paul prepares to host the world for the 2008 political convention," Hanson muses. "Will this bridge become a political 'ground zero' site? It will be very interesting to see how fast the bridge is re-built--if they attempt to do it in time for the convention and the significance it will take on. If still missing, it will for sure impact the convention in a big way."
Photo by iStockphoto.com/© Lawrence Sawyer