WSU President says debate cost will benefit community

FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) — Wright State University’s award for hosting the first presidential debate will not be cheap.

If previous presidential debates are any indicator, the cost of hosting a debate could range between one to six million dollars.

But it is a cost businesses around the Nutter Center, the site where the debate will be held, believe will be well worth it to the region.

“With all the entourage of media coming in, security, and so on and so forth, I think it will be busy for a while,” said Mike Bartolotta, owner of The Flying Pizza in Fairborn.

Across the street from the Nutter Center, there’s plenty of optimism about Wright State hosting the first presidential debate.

This time next year, Bartolotta hopes he will be seeing a greener dough at his pizza business.

“Dayton is going to get a little exposure,” said Bartolotta. “Wright State is going to get a little exposure. I feel like it’s going to put us on the map. Everybody will know who we are.”

But getting the debate to Dayton will come with a price tag. In exchange, there is a chance for millions of dollars in exposure to the university and the region.

Wright State University David Hopkins could not say how much money it would cost to put on the event, only saying it would be multiple millions of dollars. Hopkins said the money has already been coming in from community and state partnerships.

But if previous debates are any indication, the upfront cost from the host site may be overshadowed by the amount of return from media exposure.

In 2008, Hofstra University in New York paid $4.5 million for a presidential debate between then-senator Barack Obama and John McCain. In return, the university said it received about $30 million in exposure.

In 2012, Centre College in Kentucky paid $3.3 million for a vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. The college estimated it received about $53 million from the national attention.

Hopkins said the cost will be worthwhile to showcase both the Miami Valley and the university.

“To think that more than 90 million people will be engaged in watching that debate from around the world and the ability for us to really showcase this region, I think it’s a big opportunity for our community,” said Hopkins.

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group which decided the locations for next year’s debates, the money goes to covering the event’s personnel, equipment, and other needs.

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