By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Officials expected crowds throughout Wednesday night at the ticket giveaway for Friday’s Base Realignment and Closure hearing. They left the Roosevelt County Courthouse with about 75 percent of the tickets unclaimed — with less than 50 tickets still available for the auditorium where the hearing will take place.
Portales received 1,300 tickets for distribution, about one-third of the total available for Friday’s hearing in Clovis.
About 350 tickets were for the Marshall Junior High auditorium where the hearing will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Friday; the rest were for venues at other locations where the event was to be broadcast.
But when the giveaway ended about 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Portales officials had given away just 300 tickets, nearly all of them good for the auditorium.
After talking with ticket distributors in Clovis, Portales City Manager Debi Lee said tickets to the other venues would no longer be necessary.
As for the remaining tickets to the Marshall Auditorium, Lee said those would be available this morning at City Hall or the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce.
The evening started off to officials’ expectations, with about 90 tickets given away within the first hour. Most who showed up at the start only needed a few minutes to sign up, take a ticket and receive a free T-shirt with the “Operation Keep Cannon” logo.
“We were pretty excited when we got there and we had people waiting,” Lee said. “We had a great turnout for the first hour. We really hoped that would stay going solid, but it slowed way down.”
When Delores Gentry and her daughter, Julie Watson, arrived after 6 p.m., they didn’t have to wait in line. It was a bittersweet feeling for the two, as they expected that more people would share their concerns about Cannon Air Force Base, which has been targeted for closure.
“Between Portales and Clovis, we’re all going to suffer if (Cannon) is closed,” Watson said. “Close friends are going to leave looking for other jobs, and we don’t want that to happen.”
For Bill Rice, getting a ticket was just a showing of what he had learned when he was a county commissioner from 1999 to 2002. When he was on the commission, those people who came to the meetings gave him the impression they cared the most about their causes.
“After being on the county commission for four years, I felt a vested interest in helping the area grow,” Rice said. “I feel it’s best to have a physical presence.”
There weren’t many more like Rice throughout the night, and the volunteers opted to shut down a little less than three hours into the event.
“The flow had pretty much stopped,” Lee said. “We went a good 30 minutes without anybody coming. We talked with (ticket distributors in) Clovis, and they were shutting down at 8.”
Traveling to Friday’s hearing by bus is recommended due to traffic the hearing is expected to create. The buses from Portales will be loaded at 6 a.m. on Friday in the Greyhound Arena parking lot and will depart at 6:15 a.m.
Those traveling by bus can contact the Chamber of Commerce at 356-8541 and request one of three bus routes.
l The first route will take residents down the path from Cannon Air Force Base to Marshall Junior High, and those residents will get out of the bus and line the streets until BRAC commissioners travel through. Those residents will return to the buses and be back in Portales around 9 a.m. People with tickets for the hearing should not take this option.
l The second route will take passengers to the school, where passengers can either enter the auditorium (ticket required) or be part of the overflow crowd at an adjacent football field. The buses will return to Portales 30 minutes after the hearing concludes (approximately 10:30 a.m.) and should be back in Portales by 11 a.m.
l The third route will take passengers to the school, where passengers can either the auditorum (ticket required) or be part of the overflow crowd. Those passengers will stay for the hearing and a rally set to take place outside after the hearing. Those buses will leave for Portales about 1:30 p.m.
Remaining T-shirts will be given away on the buses to the hearing.