Day at the Capitol, Lightning Day make a comeback in spring

The events are marking their returns in spring after being canceled last year due to the pandemic, with modifications in place to ensure the safety of all participants. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/STUDENT GOVERNMENT

From meeting with lawmakers to cheering on the Lightning, Student Government (SG) is bringing back two of its signature events after a year-and-a-half hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Both events, which are scheduled to take place in the spring semester, will cost $38,000. The Day at the Capitol will be held Jan. 18 and students will get to go on a day trip to Tallahassee to learn about government’s operations and meet representatives and legislators. On Lightning Day, held Jan. 27, students will get discounted tickets to watch the two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning for $10. 

In previous years, between 200 and 300 students took part in Day at the Capitol, but this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 80 students will be able to attend. There are 55 spots open to Tampa, 15 to Sarasota-Manatee and 10 to St. Pete students.

Andres Montero, assistant director of external and government affairs, said the event is open to any student interested in learning more about Florida’s Legislature.

“We really give an equal opportunity to every student. It’s based on a first-come first-serve basis,” said Montero. “That’s what I think is great about the event. You don’t have to be someone that’s necessarily in the government. 

“You are a regular student that just wants to experience something new and that has a desire for government, or is just as interested in getting more involved with the school.”

SG has capped its budget for the day at $18,000. This is less than the usual amount allotted, compared to $50,000 in 2019, since fewer students will attend this year.

Sign-ups for the Day at the Capitol will be open from Nov. 1-20. Students can register on the SG BullsConnect page.

Day at the Capitol will take up the entire day, with buses leaving at 5 a.m. and arriving in Tallahassee around 10 a.m. The group will go to lunch at the Governer’s Club restaurant and tour the Florida State Capitol where they will meet with representatives and legislators.

“Students also get the chance, which I believe is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to tour the Senate chambers, the House chambers and of course, the Supreme Court of Florida chambers,” said Montero.

The group will be able to take part in panel discussions with representatives and legislators inside the Capitol. At the end of the day, a reception will be held before the students head back to campus at around 7:30 p.m.

Safety guidelines haven’t been established by the Capitol yet, but SG will be arranging the details one or two weeks before students arrive, according to Montero. He said as of right now he knows they will most likely have to be wearing masks but there are no specifications in regard to vaccination. 

Lightning Day tickets are available to the same number of students as previous years — 250. Tickets, however, will be limited to Tampa students only and will be sold for $10 each.

Tampa Gov. Alexis Roberson, said the event is funded by the Tampa SG, which restricts access to students from other campuses. 

“This came out of the Student Government Tampa campus’ budget. We purchased the services specifically for Tampa students because our money comes from Tampa students,” said Roberson.

SG has budgeted $20,000 to cover the cost of tickets. Each ticket will grant students access to the game, pregame events, dinner and giveaways, according to Tampa Lt. Gov. Kiara Brooks. Transportation to Amalie Arena, however, won’t be provided.

“Students are going to get to watch the game and participate in giveaways, they’ll also get to be a part of those pregame-day celebrations and then they’ll also have food provided,” said Brooks. “So, it’s safe to say that the night itself isn’t going to be lacking at any point.”

The stadium itself won’t be requiring masks, but SG will encourage students to wear them indoors and social distance when possible. The section where students will be seated hasn’t been announced yet.

Roberson said with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning championships recently they want students to be exposed to the local sports scene.

“We are surrounded by great businesses and we want the university students that have the opportunity to have an interaction with the same teams that are in their backyard, and gain that experience,” said Roberson.