9,000 tickets have been distributed for the new USS Little Rock’s commissioning ceremony on Saturday. That will mean long lines, wait times, and tight security in cold temperatures. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to attend.
Nearly all of the Canalside area south of Marine Drive is fenced off and being treated as a temporary U.S. Naval base.
“It’s extremely strict security – the most we’ve ever had for an event inside the city,” said Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo. “There’s a large presence of not only naval personnel, security forces, but Buffalo Police, as well as some federal assets. Again, the screening process is what it is. It’s mandated by federal law. They will conduct it in a slow, routine manner.”
The event’s one and only entrance will open to the public at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Guests are advised to bring photo identification, and everyone will be required to pass through metal detectors. No purses, bags, or backpacks of any kind will be allowed, and Rinaldo said the public can play a role in speeding up the process.
“The less stuff people bring with them, the faster the screening process goes. If you’re going through a walk-through metal detector, if you make sure you take all of your keys, cell phones, metal objects out of your pockets ahead of time, that’ll greatly assist the process. And the faster they can screen people, the faster people can get into the event.”
With so many guests expected, however, Rinaldo couldn’t give an estimate on how long it will take to enter the area.
“I would say if you want to guarantee a front row seat, I would be here by 8, 8:30,” Rinaldo advised. “I think that if you arrive late, which we anticipate might happen due to the weather – it’s like any other event – you might miss the opening of the event.”
That weather includes temperatures in the low 20s. With the ceremony scheduled to begin promptly at 11 a.m., guests could be out in the elements for upwards of four hours. Once inside, guests will not be able to leave and re-enter.
“The seating area is on the lawns, which is covered in snow, so make sure you have appropriate footwear,” said Rinaldo. “And the cobblestone streets – which are nice in the summertime – can be a little challenging to navigate in the winter. So, again, good footwear, good boots, and hats and gloves.”
Coinciding with the opening of the gates for the event, Marine Drive between Main Street and Erie Street will be closed to traffic. Guests are encouraged to take public transportation, including the NFTA Metro Rail which stops directly opposite the entrance. The NFTA will be running a regular schedule, and will also be providing free parking at the Metro Rail’s LaSalle and UB South Campus stations. Regular parking will be available in lots and on streets around Key Bank Center and the areas surrounding Canalside.
For those needing assistance getting to the gate, such as the elderly or persons with disabilities, cars can drive south on Main Street and drop off guests at the corner of Main and Marine Drive opposite the gates. The screening entrance is ADA accessible, and officers will be on hand to assist with entry.