Columbus Among Cities For 2004 Presidential Debates

COLUMBUS, Ga. --- Columbus, and Columbus State University, has been named as a potential site to host a presidential debate for the 2004 national election.

The Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau prepared a bid package on behalf of its partners Columbus State University, Columbus Consolidated Government, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, and the Columbus, Georgia Convention & Trade Center. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced 14 possible sites Thursday.

'This would be a tremendous opportunity for the nation to see this community, our outstanding facilities and the partnerships in Columbus that have led to a 'can-do spirit,' for projects such as a presidential debate,' said CSU President Frank Brown.

The Columbus plan includes Columbus State University as the local organizing committee, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts as the debate hall, and Columbus, Ga. Convention & Trade Center as the media headquarters.

When researching the possible impact of cities that have hosted the debates, visitor's bureau staff reported cities using an estimated 5,000 room nights with an estimated economic impact of $5 million.

'We also discovered that cities much smaller than Columbus, like Danville, Ky., have hosted the debates and are still reaping the rewards for doing so,' said Peter Bowden, deputy director of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau. 'There are so many benefits from this, some of which can be measured, but some of which cannot. A presidential debate in Columbus would be superb.'

The Commission on Presidential Debates will conduct site surveys of potential locations during the next several months and plan to announce the final sites in November. CSU and CVB will develop an itinerary to showcase not only the bricks and mortar, but also the quality of life and southern hospitality that makes Columbus a unique destination and good fit for the 2004 debates, Bowden said.

'We are very pleased that Columbus is among cities under consideration as the site of a presidential debate,' said Ed Wilson, executive to the mayor. 'The possible hosting of this part of the democratic process is truly an exciting prospect. And let me say the city of Columbus seems uniquely suited for this role, in that great diversity is reflected in our population, we have many politically involved citizens and we have excellent facilities for such debates. In addition, we have excellent coordinated security under the direction of Mayor Poydasheff, who is also director of public safety.'

With a presidential debate in Columbus, the university sees great potential for exposure and prestige as well as for academic programming. Seminars, mock debates, analysis, extensive collaborations with local schools are all possibilities for educational benefits from such an event.

The 14 sites named as possible locations by the Commission on Presidential Debates are:

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Belmont University, Nashville, TN
Case Western Reserve, Cleveland, OH
Centre College, Danville, KY
Columbus, GA and Columbus State University
Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pittsburgh, PA
National Public Radio
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
University of Miami, Miami, FL
University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the City of Charlotte, NC
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Washington University in St. Louis, MO

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Contact: John Lester, (706) 562-1652; E-mail: lester_john@ColumbusState.edu