WILDWOOD – Days away from the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Wildwood, police are attempting to provide information in response to questions that remain about Donald Trump’s rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.
Speculation is swirling about how big of a swell the mostly closed and winterized tourist town will see on that date. Much of that speculation has been stoked by U.S. Rep Jeff Van Drew’s (R-2nd) comments, in the Herald, that the Wildwood rally has the highest ticket request of any Trump rally so far, and his comments to other media that over 100,000 tickets have been requested.
At the Jan. 22 Wildwood Board of Commissioners meeting, Police Chief Robert Regalbuto tapered expectations of a crowd rivaling busy mid-summer weekends.
“There is no way we’re going to have 100,000 people, in my opinion,” Regalbuto said. “Our estimates are probably somewhere around the area of 15,000, maybe a little bit more.”
Overflow crowds not able to get into the Convention Center - which has a capacity of about 7,400 – will be able to view the rally from jumbotrons in the parking lot and across the street at Fox Park, according to the chief.
Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron has said that the monitors would be set up by the Trump campaign, or the Republican Party, not the city.
Regalbuto shed some light on the security perimeter that would be in place around the Convention Center. Roads will be closed to vehicles from Baker Avenue south to Rio Grande Avenue, and from the boardwalk west to Atlantic Avenue, the chief said. He added no dumpsters would be permitted inside the perimeter.
Regalbuto said that as talks continue with the U.S. Secret Service leading up to the event, the perimeter could be expanded or reduced, but that is what they have decided on, as of now.
Parking is expected to be a challenge, and the chief expects many of the pay-to-park lots to open, especially for the event, to try to make some rare off-season revenue.
The police department will not allow residents to charge for parking in their driveways or on their lawns.
Regalbuto said that a list of items prohibited from the Convention Center will be made available in the coming days, and that anything confiscated will not be returned.
“I don’t want any of it. If you bring it into the arena and it is not allowed into the Convention Center, it is trash,” Regalbuto said, adding police in other places that have hosted Trump rallies have wound up with over 400 pounds of prohibited items.
“No bombs, no hand grenades, we’ll be fine,” the chief joked.
The traffic lights in Wildwood, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest will return to their normal, summer operations the morning of Jan. 27, and revert to the blinking, off-season status Jan. 29.
Wildwood public schools are closed Jan. 28.
Wildwood police are encouraging people interested in updates about the event to follow the department on its social media channels, or text “WPD3” to 888777 to subscribe to text message updates.
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