Schools: Hosting presidential debates costly, but worth it


DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The first general election presidential debate will take place in September at Wright State University and the Dayton school is preparing to absorb the consequences — good and bad — that come with it.

Hosting a debate is expensive, time-consuming and fraught with potential problems, but those who have hosted past presidential and vice presidential debates told the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/29oMBQu) the cost is worth it.

“This is like the Super Bowl of politics,” said Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University in Nashville, which hosted one of the 2008 presidential debates at a cost of about $3 million. “I think everybody saw the wisdom of investing in something like this.”

The Wright State debate will cost the university between $5 million and $6 million to put on the debate, according to university president David Hopkins. The school has already paid $1.9 million to the Commission on Presidential Debates to stage and produce the debate.

On top of the hefty price tag, the university will have to deal with the security challenge of having thousands of students, media and visitors attending watch parties and other campus activities surrounding the debate. The Secret Service is in charge of the security in the enclosed perimeter of the debate hall, but Hopkins said he hopes the state and other universities will help local jurisdictions beef up security.

The commission also stressed to Wright State that the debate will be a bigger event than usual “because of who’s involved and the atmosphere” and has to go on glitch free, Hopkins said.

Though the event is a mine field of potential problems, it brings “millions and millions” of media hits from around the world, said Melissa Connolly, a spokeswoman at Hofstra University, which has hosted two debates and is an alternate for this election cycle.

“It’s nothing close to anything you would do in terms of exposure around the world for the university,” she said. “(Except) maybe winning a national title in basketball or something.”

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com

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