ST. LOUIS, MO. - Excitement is building with just a few days left until the presidential debate on Washington University’s campus.
On Wednesday, construction of the debate stage began in the field house, and tight security measures were already in place. Red carpet covers the gymnasium floor, which will soon be teeming with reporters from around the globe.
Wash U is installing a robust wifi & cellular system, to make sure the latest soundbites are sent out seamlessly.
“So that the 2,500, 3,000 members of the media will have no down time in being able to file their stories,” said Presidential Debate Steering Committee Chair Steve Givens.
Altogether, Givens says hosting the debate will cost Wash U roughly $4 million to $5 million. He says it will be a priceless experience for students: “They’re going to find themselves right in the middle of history being made here, and that experience—offering that experience to them, is really important to us.”
The debate experience will be integrated through coursework and watch parties, and for about 100 lucky students, watching the debate in person.
Nearly the entire student body entered the lottery for those seats. Senior Julia Winemiller says, “I know one person who got it which is really exciting, they’re kind of like royalty around campus now.”
Sophomore Sydney Dybing adds, “I'm from the other side of the country so I can say to people back home, look what's happening on my campus. It’s a pretty exciting thing.”
Neighboring hotels, restaurants and businesses are also gearing up for influx of people the debate will bring.
Kayak’s Coffee is right across the street from campus, and a student favorite. General Manager Kayla Lybrand says, “I do have a couple extra people staffed on Sunday for the actual event, and we’ll do some heavier ordering, so hopefully we won’t run out of anything.”
Security around campus will be tighter than in previous years’ debates at Wash U. Due to a wider security perimeter, road closures on Big Bend and Forsyth will begin Saturday morning.