University officials began planning for this almost 10 months ago. The debate is Sunday, October 9.
“I think it’s pretty exciting to have a presidential debate here,” said student Michaela Morhaus.
Temporary cellphone towers have been put in place. Plywood now covers the basketball court in the field house where the debate will take place; carpeting will soon go on top of that.
Crews were hammering out the final stages of a floor plan for the media feeding tent, while other workers put together platforms for reporters’ live shots. The whole thing will cost the university close to $5 million. For that money, the university will receive plenty of prestige, numerous mentions in the national media, and something special for students.
Steve Givens, the staffer in charge of the debate, said alumni have fond memories of past presidential debates.
“If they’re here during a presidential debate, it’s one of those life-changing…kind of moments and they never forget it,” he said.
During the debate weekend, don’t even try traveling down Forsyth or Big Bend near campus. Roads will be closed.
People in the neighborhood were taking it all in stride.
“No, it’s not inconvenient to me. I think it’s an honor to our city, to tell you the truth, and our university,” said Barbara Budde, who lives near the campus.
Some fraternity buildings are within the security zone. Students will have to pass through security to get to their room. They were given the opportunity to move somewhere else, but it appears most—if not all—are staying in place.
“I think they’re loving the idea of being right in the middle of history; they’re having a great time,” Givens said.
As for security, officials won’t talk numbers, but they said they’ve been working closely with city and county cops and the U.S. Secret Service.
As many as 3,000 members of the media are expected in St. Louis and they should begin to arrive in the middle of next week.