Every four years, the Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan group formed to plan and produce the debates between the nominees from each party, sets forth their requirements and begins the process of selecting a venue to hold the next round of Presidential debates. On January 2, 2019, the Commission opened their proposal system to begin looking for venues and offered guidance for prospective locations eager to host a presidential debate in the 2020 cycle.
Here are the guidelines set forth by the commission for the 2020 debates. The deadline to submit a proposal to host a debate is April 2, 2019.
Below is an overview of the requirements:
- A debate hall of at least 15,000 square feet that is air-conditioned.
- A large parking area close to the debate hall for 40 television remote trucks, trailers and/or satellite trucks up to 53 feet in length.
- A media filing center, located either in the same facility as the debate hall or immediately adjacent to the debate hall that is a minimum of 20,000 square feet (may be a tent). This space must be air-conditioned.
- A media parking lot, located approximately one-quarter to one mile away from the media filing center, that can accommodate approximately 500 passenger vehicles.
- An accreditation center of at least 3,000 square feet, located one-half to one mile away from the debate hall, with parking for up to 75 vehicles.
- Nearby hotels that can provide 3,000 rooms for the event.
- Adequate air and ground transportation networks.
- The host’s guarantee of complete city services, including public safety personnel.
- Financial contribution.
Typically, the only venues which meet these requirements are colleges and universities since they’re already built for large events and have all the necessary amenities to deal with a swell of several thousand people in the surrounding area.
Hofstra University, on Long Island, has the distinct honor of being the site for 3 debates in consecutive election years including 2008, 2012, and 2016. Washington University has also hosted 3 debates, though not consecutively.
Other recent venues include:
- University of Nevada Las Vegas (2016)
- Washington University (2016, 2008, 2004)
- Longwood University (2016)
- Lynn University (2012)
- Centre College (2012)
- University of Denver (2012)
- Belmont University (2008)
- University of Mississippi (2008)
- University of Miami (2004)
Other types of venues, beyond a college, have considered it, such as a town hosting the debate at a local convention center, but the costs are prohibitive compared to the return on such an investment for most localities.
For a university, however, claiming a presidential debate is usually something which helps with notoriety and bolsters alumni donations.