Presidential debate at WSU ‘enormous’ economic impact

Wright State University will host the first presidential debate next September.

  • WSU was one of 16 sites that applied

  • Application to host debate turned in two years ago

  • Economic impact expected to be $10-14 million for region

UPDATE 12:01 p.m. (Sept. 24)

“We are going to have the eyes of the world upon us.” said Kathleen Young, Executive Director of Greene County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“The U.S. has a very unique democracy so people from all over the world are going to be watching us and that’s going to put a lot of

emphasis on Wright State University, Greene County, Dayton, Ohio, all the history that is here, this is great exposure.”

Young expects the economic impact to be significant. “It’s hard to put numbers to it, but looking at past events, $10-14 million impact is what we anticipate over that 7 day period,” said Young. That’s close to the Air Force Marathon, she said.

“The trickle down effect is enormous,” continued Young. “We are talking all the service industry — restaurants, hotels, rental car companies, airline tickets, furniture rental for the press, equipment rental, security.”

One of the requirements, said Young, was to have 3000 hotel rooms available within an 80 mile radius of debate site. Young expects every single one will fill up, and fast.

“We’ve already been hit up from people on Facebook and Twitter wanting to know what’s the closest hotel, wanting to know when they can we start booking, and how they can get tickets.”

The effort to land the first presidential candidate debate of 2016 took months of work.

“We met with people from the base and from Wright State University. Before it became public knowledge, we were working behind the scenes, there was a whole bid packet that had to be put together.”

The first presidential candidate debate draws approximately 67-million viewers, stated Young, more than any other debate.

UPDATE @ 2 p.m. (Sept. 23)

“We’re extremely proud, we’re honored we can bring this to Ohio, our region and certainly to Wright State,” said Wright State University President David R. Hopkins. “We’re excited, it’s a big day at Wright State, it’s a big day for our community.”

Hopkins said the announcement came at 1 p.m. today that the first presidential debate will be held at the Fairborn university’s Nutter Center Sept. 26, 2016.

“What we think this is all about is making sure people understand how important Ohio is,” Hopkins said. “It showcases what all the great things we have in this state. We have great people, great facilities, great capabilities … in so many ways that sometimes gets lost in bigger cities of Ohio.”

Hopkins said for Wright State itself, a 48-year-old university, this major announcement means “we have arrived.”

“Too many people treat us as an upstart institution,” Hopkins said. “This recognition … is an indication that Wright State has national visibility.”

Hopkins said presidential debates are a “central piece” of what democracy is all about.

“Where better to do that than a public university,” Hopkins said.

The process started two years ago with an application, and subsequent site visits by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“It took a concerted effort by people saying we want to bring this to Ohio,” Hopkins said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released a statement Wednesday after the announcement. He also wrote a letter of support in March of this year.

“Today’s announcement is exciting news for Wright State University and for Ohio,” Brown said in a release. “The presidential candidates will have the chance to experience the welcoming Fairborn community and, on the night of the first presidential debate, millions of Americans will tune in to see history being made at Wright State’s Nutter Center.”

UPDATE @ 1:21 p.m. (Sept. 23)

Wright State University will host the first presidential debate next September, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

WSU was one of 16 sites that had applied to host one of the 2016 general election presidential debates.

The commission also announced the second presidential debate will take place at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by a debate at the University of Nevada.

“I could not be any prouder of our university and the fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates has entrusted Wright State to host such an important event,” said Wright State University President David R. Hopkins. “The Commission had the daunting challenge of selecting just a few institutions and the fact that Wright State was selected is very gratifying and humbling. I am confident that our university will excel in supporting the Commission and represent our students, faculty and staff, community, and the State of Ohio in a way that will make us all proud. This is a huge win for all of us.”

Universities in St. Louis and Las Vegas have been chosen to host two of the debates, while a university in Virginia will host the vice presidential debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the sites Wednesday. They were among more than a dozen schools and cities that submitted bids in April to host the 2016 debates.

Washington University in St. Louis will host the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, followed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Oct. 19.

Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, will host the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.

The commission has sponsored the official presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.

U.S. Congressman Michael R. Turner (R-Dayton) wrote a letter dated March 23 to the Commission of Presidential Debates in support of WSU hosting a 2016 presidential debate.

Turner cited past high-profile events including Barack Obama’s 2008 rally “Keeping America’s Promises” and John McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate happening at the Nutter Center.

“I would like to take a moment to congratulate Wright State University on hosting this historic event,” Turner said in a prepared statement. “Wright State University is named after the Wright Brothers who are the ‘first in flight’ and it is only fitting the first presidential debate will take place at such a symbolic location in Dayton, Ohio.”


Wright State University is one of 16 sites that has applied to host one of the 2016 general election presidential debates, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The commission hasn’t announced how many debates it plans to host in 2016, but in 2012 it hosted four debates – three for the presidential candidates, one for the vice-presidential candidates.

“I think we have a very competitive package. The impact on the region will be significant,” said John McCance, Wright State advisor to the president for presidential debate.

“We at Wright State are very lucky to have received very significant levels of support, starting with our federal and state-elected officials, county officials, and city of Dayton, Fairborn and Beavercreek,” McCance said. “It is indeed a win for the region. You look at something of this magnitude—in the last presidential cycle, there were only four debates.”

Wright State previously made political news in 2008 when Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate at the Nutter Center.

Seth Bauguess, director of communications for Wright State, said the university is suggesting the main floor of the Nutter Center for the debate.

To host, applicants must have a debate hall of at least 17,000 square feet that is air conditioned, a large parking area, a media filing center and parking lot and nearby hotels that can provide 3,000 rooms for the event, among other requirements.

The Republican National Committee earlier this year announced that Cleveland will host one of the Republican primary presidential debates this August as well as the Republican National Convention in July 2016. For its part, Columbus was one of two finalists to host the Democratic National Convention, but lost its bid to Philadelphia.

In 2012, the University of Denver in Denver, Colo.; Centre College in Danville, Ky.; Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. and Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., hosted presidential or vice-presidential debates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates was created in 1987 to ensure that debates provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners, and is tasked with sponsoring and producing debates for U.S. presidential and vice-presidential candidates. They’ve sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Other locations under consideration:

Belmont University, Nashville, TN

City of Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

City of McAllen, McAllen, TX

Dominican University of California, San Rafael, CA

Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY

Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA

Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Houston Community College, Houston, TX

Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL

Longwood University, Farmville, VA

State University of New York Rockland Community College (SUNY RCC) in partnership with Rockland Debates 2016, Suffern, NY

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas, NV

Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

West Virginia University and West Virginia State University, Charleston, WV

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