Jason Hively, whose Nova High School team lost the championship game to Winter Haven 56-45, told the Sun Sentinel he was surprised when the team bus pulled up to the venue Saturday and he saw people carrying large rifles into the convention center.
The gun issue is particularly emotional in Nova’s home county of Broward, where 17 people died last month in a school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, 24 miles from Nova.
But the Parkland shootings did have an effect on last weekend’s operations at the RP Funding Center, Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado said. The venue beefed up security from both the Lakeland Police Department and its private guard service last weekend, Delgado said.
It’s not unusual to book events like these on the same weekend, said Delgado, who spent four years as assistant director of the venue when it was called The Lakeland Center.
Indeed, a youth-oriented Nexstar dance competition was being held in the center’s theater last weekend as the arena hosted prep hoops and the convention hall housed gun aficionados.
In addition, a last-minute rescheduling or cancellation of the gun show would have caused financial losses and logistic problems for the city, Delgado said.
“Obviously, we will monitor the laws and regulatory issues related to gun shows and administer and book these shows with that at the forefront,” Delgado said in an email.
In comments on a Facebook post about the Sun Sentinel article, reactions to the co-scheduling of the gun show and basketball tournament reacted from those who were horrified to people who asserted the high school athletes were better protected because of the presence of armed citizens.