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Debate could cost up to $4 million

How will Longwood pay for the debate and how much will it cost?

The vice-presidential debate at Longwood University next fall could cost the school about $4 million.

According to Commission on Presidential Debates Executive Director Janet Brown, “the cost of a single 2016 debate [presidential or vice-presidential] is $1,950,000.” This figure, a host fee, is paid to the commission to produce the debate, and doesn’t include upgrades the debate venue might need.

Longwood will fund the debate through cash reserves that have been set aside, according to the university.

Brown said the overall spending of an individual site depends upon many factors such as improvements that the site may be asked to make or choose to make.

According to Longwood’s debate website, “altogether, recent debate host sites have typically spent a few million dollars in costs associated with hosting the debate, and Longwood would expect to do the same. However, much of that would consist of upgrades to campus infrastructure with benefits enduring long after the debate. There will also be opportunities for philanthropy and sponsorships. Meanwhile, expenditures will come from cash reserve funds that have been set aside, not tuition dollars. Longwood will not be dipping into its operating budget or cutting any other spending to host the debate.”

In 2012, Centre College in Danville, Ky. hosted a vice-presidential debate for a second time.

Michael Strysick, the director of communications at Centre College, said as a general rule, host sites should expect to at least double the cost of the host fee that will be paid to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Strysick said that each site is different, however, factors to consider include contractor work, catering and event planning.

“Expenses involve things like building out camera platforms in the debate hall, as well as creating a redundant power source, a separate server room for the media filing center and a spin alley in the media center,” he said. “We had to run extra AC into the media center and also rent jersey barriers for security purposes. An intramural soccer field had to be covered to accommodate satellite trucks.”

Longwood said that hosting the vice-presidential debate is an investment and the institution is well-suited financially to make that investment. “Factoring in the immediate and long-term economic impacts and the sense of pride hosting a debate instills, institutions that have hosted debates have found the experience deeply rewarding and thoroughly worthwhile,” the university said.