EKU, Centre apply to host 2012 presidential debate

By Jarrod Thacker

Two institutions of higher education in Kentucky have submitted applications to be considered a host site for a 2012 U.S. presidential debate.

Centre College, located in Danville, Ky., and Eastern Kentucky University EKU, located in Richmond, Ky., are now among 10 other colleges that are potential venues for the political discussions, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

The deadline for applying to host a debate was March 31.

Dr. Clarence Wyatt, Chief Planning Officer and Special Assistant to the President at Centre College, expressed how important it is to be able to demonstrate that your facilities are capable of meeting the requirements that the Commission outlines.

“It’s not much of an exaggeration in saying that there are a million details that have to be addressed … it’s not a matter of turning on the lights and opening the door,” Wyatt said. “It requires a tremendous amount of preparation.”

Some of the requirements that the CPD outlines include an air conditioned debate hall that would house at least 17,000, being in proximity of at least 3,000 hotel rooms located within 30 minutes from the host site and a media parking lot that has a capacity of at least 500 passenger vehicles, among other specifications.

Centre will hold their potential debate in their Norton Center for the Arts, in Newlin Hall, their largest theatre, which seats 1400 people.

In 2000, Centre College hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joseph Lieberman.

“Having done this before is a tremendous asset,” Wyatt said.

Though this would be the first U.S. Presidential debate that EKU has held, they do not have to do without some experienced help.

Debra Hoskins, executive director of the EKU Center for the Arts, was Director of Programs at the Norton Center during the 2000 Vice Presidential debate.

She is one of six people at EKU who have worked with Presidential debates as professionals.

Hoskins said EKU was able to complete its application process, which typically takes two to three months, in less than two weeks because EKU’s campus is already readily accessible.

“We may be a new site applying for the debate, but (the CPD) seems to like to take it to new sites each year,” Hoskins said.

EKU is building a new state-of-the-art structure, the EKU Center for the Arts, to serve as a venue for their potential debate. Photos of the projected site can be found at www.ekucenter.com.

Tom Harris, associate vice president for external affairs, affirms that UK currently has no plans to host a U.S. presidential debate due to the strain that such an undertaking would place on the campus, “although clearly the university has been privileged to serve as host to a number of wonderful speakers and civic and political leaders.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates will visit these locations from April through June, and decisions will be made in early fall.