The stage is set. Literally.
Workers have erected a 51-foot-by-45-foot stage on the floor of downtown St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center — in the once and future hockey rink home of the Minnesota Wild — as part of the transformation of the arena into the home of the Republican National Convention.
There are eight steps leading up to the stage, or podium, as they like to call it. It’s only 4 feet above the floor, a change from the past, as organizers want to keep the proceedings on a more even plane with the delegates.
Mike Miller, construction supervisor, said that until 1996, the convention platforms had been of the battleship ilk: a stage surrounded by a wall, to separate the real action from the rest of the world.
In ’96, though, the parties brought down the walls, but the stage was still about 10 feet above the floor. It then dropped to 6 feet, before this year’s 4-foot level.
This is the fourth of six weeks of construction to transform the inside of the building. About 3,000 seats have been removed and replaced with platform desks for the media. The hanging scoreboard in the middle of the arena has been raised to the top of the ceiling and camouflaged.
Signs for the various news networks are starting to appear in the stands: BBC, AP, C-SPAN. More will follow.
Crews are also installing speakers and lighting this week; next week they’ll install camera stands. Soon, a high-definition television screen 50 feet by 30 feet will be set up right behind the stage.
A week before the Sept. 1 opening, signs for the various delegations will be installed around the rink. And they won’t announce the delegation seating locations in the arena until near the actual event. Apparently they don’t want states complaining about being in the farthest seats.
And in the last few days before the gavel falls, they’ll load the rafters with balloons, perched ready to fall on command, but seemingly spontaneously, when the nomination process reaches a culminating fever pitch.