RICHMOND, KY (WAVE) - A three-member delegation of the Commission on Presidential Debates visited Eastern Kentucky University on Thursday, May 26.
EKU, which submitted a bid earlier this year to host a debate, is one of 12 colleges and universities nationwide competing to host four debates in 2012 – three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. It is expected that the site selections will be announced this fall.
The delegation visited several EKU facilities that would serve as event venues, including the University's 2,012-seat Center for the Arts. Now under construction, the Center is scheduled to open in September of this year.
While on the Richmond campus, members of the delegation also interviewed University officials responsible for debate logistics, particularly in the areas of facilities, security, transportation and telecommunications.
"We welcomed this opportunity to show the visiting team from the Commission on Presidential Debates the facilities and human resources we described in our debate application," EKU President Doug Whitlock said. "I believe they left here with a sense of our commitment to and enthusiasm for the opportunity to serve the nation in such a significant way. We remain very excited about the prospect of hosting a presidential debate, particularly for the remarkable educational benefits for our students.
"Madison County, Richmond, and Berea have played important roles in American history," Whitlock added, "and the possibility we may do so again has generated a high level of community interest and support. We have also been encouraged by the support that has been shown from other communities, including Lexington and Fayette County."
It is expected that a Presidential Debate would attract approximately 5,000 guests (including approximately 3,000 media personnel) to the community and area, some staying for as long as a week.
In the bid proposal and during the site visit, University officials have emphasized several strengths that they believe make EKU and the Richmond-Berea-Lexington area ideally suited to host such an event:
- An easily accessible location, served by interstate highways in all directions and the Blue Grass Airport.
- An experienced leadership team bolstered by several individuals who played key roles in logistics, security and telecommunications during the Vice Presidential Debate held in Danville in 2000, including Debbie Hoskins, currently Executive Director of the EKU Center for the Arts, who was serving at the time as Director of Programs at the Norton Center, site of that debate.
- The spacious, state-of-the-art Center for the Arts and several other nearby campus facilities that would serve auxiliary purposes.
- More than 10,000 area hotel and motel rooms.
- Security personnel in Richmond and Lexington who have worked previous local events involving national and international figures requiring tight security.
- The expressed support of local officials in Madison and Fayette counties to offer municipal resources as needed. The University's bid proposal also included letters of support from Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler, local governmental and business leaders, and telecommunications companies, among others.
- The availability of shuttle services to and from the airport and to and from lodging locations.
- Adjacent emergency facilities such as Kentucky State Police, local fire and EMS stations, and Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center.
According to The Commission on Presidential Debates, which announced the applicants on April 1, the other colleges and universities vying to host a debate next year are: Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.; Centre College, Danville, Ky.; Dominican University of California, San Rafael, Calif.; Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.; Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.; Saint Mary's College of California, Moraga, Calif.; The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Pomona, N.J.; University of Denver, Denver, Colo.; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.