TUPELO • Anyone who expects to be anywhere near downtown Tupelo Friday should expect congested traffic and the possibility of long delays.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the BancorpSouth Arena around 7 p.m. Nov. 1 during a campaign rally for Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves.
“President Trump’s events typically draw large crowds and I expect there will be major delays,” said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. “We don’t know when the crowds will get here.
“There could be heavy traffic as early as 7 a.m., so parents should allow extra time to get their children to school.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, only two road closings, both around the coliseum, have been announced. First Street, which runs on the north side of the Tupelo Automobile Museum, will be closed from Highway 45 to Franklin Street at 8 a.m. Franklin Street will be closed from First Street to Commerce at the same time.
When the president’s plane lands and Trump travels from the airport to the coliseum, roads will be closed, possibly along multiple routes.
“We can’t discuss the routes,” said Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre. “When the plane gets close, about 10 minutes before landing, we will start closing roads along the route.
“He probably won’t get here until around 6 p.m. so it shouldn’t affect bus routes or people going home from work.”
The city plans to post updates on road closures as they are announced Friday to help motorists.
People planning on attending the rally should plan for a long day. Public parking at the coliseum will open early and could be full by mid-morning. Any vehicles left in the parking lots Thursday night will be towed.
Handicapped parking will be available in Lot D on the east side of the building. General public parking will be in Lot B, the main large lot on the west side of the building.
“We expect both lots to fill up early, possibly by 10 a.m.,” said arena director Todd Hunt. “Once the lots are full, we will close them and direct people to other public parking areas downtown.”
Two large parking lots east of the coliseum cannot be used by order of the Secret Service. No parking will be allowed in the car museum or former Mega Sports parking lots. Shelton added that there will be no parking along the Highway 45 right of ways.
While folks will be trying to find parking early, the doors to the arena will not open until 4 p.m. Officials expect people to begin lining up early, because seating is limited and first-come, first-served.
“Security will be tight,” Shelton said. “Everyone entering the building will have to go through TSA security, like at the airport.
“And people should remember, a ticket does not guarantee you a seat inside. Once the fire marshal says the building has reached capacity, the doors will be closed.”
Hunt said he is still waiting for the White House and Secret Service to set the stage configuration and capacity, but he feels the number will be around 10,000. There will be a Jumbotron set up in front of the Conference Center broadcasting the rally for those who could not make it inside.
While the day will be long for folks wanting to get inside, there are some ways to make the day seem shorter. People will be allowed to park their car at the arena, leave and come back later to get in line. Once in line, folks will have a chance to leave, as long as someone saves their spot.
“The lines are usually self-policing,” Hunt said. “As long as one person stays in line, the rest can go eat or go to the bathroom. We will be encouraging our guests to visit some of the restaurants and stores we have downtown to make their day seem a little shorter.”
For those not wanting to leave the arena parking lot, the Jumbotron will be playing videos throughout the day. There will also be concessions and port-a-johns for the visitors.