Crews Busy Preparing For Trump Visit
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A short visit from a sitting president makes for a long week of preparation.
State and local police and officials of Mohegan Sun Arena and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport say they are working hard to make sure President Donald Trump’s visit to the arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp. on Thursday goes well.
Mohegan Sun Arena has been “a very hectic place” the past few days, according to Steve Poremba, director of sales and marketing for the arena.
Arena personnel have worked with the Secret Service since last week’s announcement that Trump would appear at a rally for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, Poremba said.
Doors will open at 4 p.m., but those who wish to attend the 7 p.m. rally should get to the arena “as soon as they possibly can,” Poremba said.
The arena’s capacity is slightly more than 10,000, according to Poremba. Once capacity is reached, no one else will be admitted, he said.
Wilkes-Barre Twp. police Chief Ron Smith also urged rally-goers to arrive early.
“My advice is if you have a ticket to get in, get there as early as possible,” Smith said. “We anticipate the arena is going to be filled.”
Law enforcement officials will work together to ensure public safety during the president’s visit, Smith said. That effort includes every officer in his department as well as other local police agencies, the county sheriff’s office and state police, all working together with the Secret Service, he said.
Motorists can expect travel delays and closed roads near the arena while Trump is there.
Highland Park Boulevard will be closed from the traffic light near Wal-Mart to Mundy Street while Trump is at the arena, according to state police Lt. Michael Carroll. The on- and off-ramps at Exit 168 of Interstate 81 will also be closed, he said.
Also, portions of I-81 will be closed as Trump’s motorcade travels about 10 miles from the airport to the arena, Carroll said.
Messages on electronic signs will warn of the potential travel delays on the heavily traveled interstate, according to Carroll. But he urged motorists to find alternate routes rather than attempt to drive on I-81 between exits 168 and 178 in the late afternoon and early evening hours Thursday.
“We are trying to get the word out there to avoid the interstate,” Carroll said.
An advisory posted to the arena’s website warns of “significant traffic congestion” from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. in the area of the arena.
The president’s visit should not cause major disruptions for air travel, according to Carl Beardsley, executive director of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Air Force One is expected to land at about 5:30 p.m., Beardsley wrote in an email.
“We do not anticipate any significant impact to airport operation,” Beardsley wrote. “The scheduled arrival and departure times do not overlap our commercial airline flight times. As a result, we expect flights to operate as scheduled.”
In addition to road closures near the arena, Thursday’s rally will see a major law enforcement presence and security measures such as walk-through metal detectors, officials said. Police will stay alert to the potential for trouble between Trump supporters and those who show up outside the arena to protest the president and his policies, Carroll said. “We are trying to mitigate any kind of disturbances,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe and keep the peace. ... We just hope that whatever side you are on, you are cordial to everyone else.”
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