CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how President Donald Trump’s visit will impact security and traffic around the North Charleston Coliseum next Friday.
The coliseum’s general manager and officials with North Charleston Police Department said they were told just days ago that Trump intended to hold a campaign rally in the Lowcountry ahead of Saturday’s First in the South Primary for the Democratic presidential candidates.
For now, officials are still waiting on directives from the Secret Service about how the high-security, large-scale event will unfold.
“Obviously there’s concern for the president’s safety and security which is handled by the secret service. Our role is to support them in their mission in protecting the president,” North Charleston Police Deputy Chief Scott Deckard said. “Of course, a visit of a dignitary like that poses many challenges for our agency and city, and not just for the event goers themselves, but for the motoring public. There are certain things that have to be done with traffic, detours, and parking advisories, and everything else.”
Officials are expecting a large crowd to attend.
“From what we’ve seen in other areas, they are experiencing capacity crowds, and I think we have to plan on a capacity crowd here. We have to take the necessary steps to make sure everyone gets in and out safely,” Deckard said. “Anytime a large event happens, a highly publicized event with a large number of people, those challenges increase as the event gets closer.”
Frank Lapsley, the North Charleston Coliseum’s general manager, said his team still doesn’t have a lot of information about how ticketing will work.
“Tickets are online through the Trump website. We have very limited information. As we progress along with our meetings with both the Secret Srvice and the Trump team, we will have more information,” Lapsley said. “Security and admissions for the Trump event will be handled by the Secret Service and local law enforcement. I do know the admission programming will be handled by the federal level.”
Lapsley said attendees will be subject to TSA level screening, and he expects the Coliseum to sell out. The building’s capacity, with every seat and space filled, is about 13,000.
The event comes during a busy time for the Coliseum’s staff.
“A lot of logistical gymnastics to do in order to make this work,” Lapsley said. “We have a lot of events scheduled next week including a day game with the hockey club on Wednesday. We then need to turn the building over and get it ready for the Trump event. Then as soon as the Trump event loads out, we need to figure out how we can get all of the dirt into the building for our pro bull riders on Saturday night.”
The property is also hosting a gymnastics competition throughout the weekend in the exhibition halls. a student activities forum in the ballroom and meeting rooms, and Broadway’s The Color Purple premieres Friday night at the performing arts center.
“It will be ground zero for a lot of folks,” Lapsley said. “It’s not something we haven’t had before. We are well trained in it.”
The North Charleston Coliseum has hosted many different candidates over the years and the Republican Presidential Primary Debate in 2016.
“The extra level of having the Secret Service and state law enforcement and all of the other agencies that travel with the president provide a bigger wrinkle than we normally see, but it’s not something we haven’t seen before,” Lapsley said.
Officials said people who are not attending should be aware of how traffic will be impacted.
“That area around Montague, 526, and International Boulevard are going to be disrupted. It’s the nature of any event where you have a large number of cars trying to get in and out of the event,” Deckard said. “Also, with the president’s visit, that poses other traffic issues where there won’t be any movement by the motoring public. So, certain times there may be times when traffic is not flowing in that area. Just be patient with that. That’s what we have to do to ensure the safety of the president, support the secret service mission.”
Meanwhile, Lapsley suggested attendees get to the Coliseum early and plan ahead for Friday night’s 7 p.m. rally.
“Plan your trips. Carpool. Utilize ride shares, that will really help everybody get into the building as quickly as possible,” Lapsley said.
Meanwhile, North Charleston Police Department will also be on hand to maintain security if any protests occur.
“We are aware of some of the issues that events like this cause because it is a political event. There are two primary parties in the country, and they don’t always see eye to eye. But we are there to protect both of them, members of either party. If one party doesn’t like the other one or if a group of people show up to protest the event, we are prepared to handle that as well,” Deckard said.