It will be security first and convenience second with President Barack Obama’s visit to Akron this afternoon, city leaders said Tuesday.
This means downtown streets will be closed, getting in and out of downtown will be difficult and buses may be late.
“The president of the United States is coming to the John S. Knight Center, so expect delays,” warned Akron police Capt. Daniel Zampelli. “We will try to make them as minimal as possible.”
Obama is scheduled to arrive on Air Force One at the Akron-Canton Airport about 3 p.m. and speak at the Knight Center, 77 E. Mill St., at 4 p.m. Those attending the event, who were issued tickets by the campaign Tuesday, are being advised to arrive at 1:30 p.m., with the event expected to last about an hour.
This will be Obama’s second stop in Ohio on Wednesday, with him first visiting Mansfield. After leaving Akron, he’ll move on to campaign events in Orlando, Fla., and Leesburg, Va.
The campaign distributed tickets Tuesday at three locations in Summit County, handing out the limited supply within a day. Campaign officials weren’t willing to say how many tickets were distributed. Obama held an event at the Knight Center in 2008 that drew 6,000 people.
The timing and location of the Akron event creates difficulties for both people attending and downtown workers trying to leave at the end of the work day. The bus service issued a news release Tuesday saying delays are expected.
For security reasons, police and city leaders aren’t announcing what route the motorcade will take from the airport or what streets will be closed. Obama isn’t expected to make any impromptu stops as he did when he stayed overnight in Fairlawn and ate breakfast the next morning at an Akron restaurant during a bus trip earlier this month.
Mayor Don Plusquellic said the city is doing everything the campaign needs to make the president’s visit as safe and secure as possible.
“It will be safety first and somebody’s ingress and egress second,” he said during a “Welcome Obama” news conference held at the Knight Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Summit County Executive Russ Pry and Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville also spoke at the welcome event and will be at the Wednesday festivities, with Pry at the Knight Center and Sommerville greeting Obama at the airport.
Plusquellic, who won’t attend today’s event because of leg surgery he had scheduled before he found out about the visit, has welcomed several presidents during his tenure as Akron’s longest serving mayor.
“It’s always a special day when you welcome the president of the United States,” he said.
Plusquellic praised Obama for steps he’s taken that have helped cities like Akron, including providing stimulus funds to rebuild bridges and roads and federal funds to bring back laid-off firefighters and hire veterans as police officers.
The outspoken Plusquellic, a Democrat, also took a few swipes at Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, saying he backed away from some of the more progressive policies he supported when he was Massachusetts governor but then “sold his soul to the people in the right-wing Republican party.”
Romney has been visiting countries overseas. His campaign has been having events featuring local government and business leaders in Ohio and other states in the past week.
State Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, headlined one such event Tuesday afternoon at his family’s business, DeVitis Italian Market on East Tallmadge Avenue in Akron. Business owners from Rootstown, Cuyahoga Falls, Copley, Willoughby and Canton also spoke.
Obama’s visit, as well as the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament, has the Akron Police Department busy this week. Zampelli said some officers are being brought in early and several from other divisions, such as the detective bureau, will be working the events.
“Thankfully, we have enough personnel,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.