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Debate could bring 5,000 people

I’ve got lots of questions about the vice presidential debate. How many people are coming? Do we need to leave town? When will folks start arriving?

By Matthew McWilliams

Longwood University

We’re about six months away from hosting the 2016 vice presidential debate, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and the unprecedented opportunity to welcome the world to Farmville. We know the community has questions about what to expect, and are grateful The Herald has set aside two You Asked columns to let Longwood address some of those questions — starting with this edition.

You can also sign up for emailed debate updates at debate.longwood.edu, where you can also see other questions answered in the “Community FAQ” section.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE COMING TO FARMVILLE NEXT OCTOBER?

We can’t say for sure. Based on past debates we expect as many as 3,000 members of media organizations (journalists and support staff) to come to campus. In addition, representatives of the campaigns, VIPs and those working on security and debate production could amount to an additional couple thousand. Lastly, we don’t know how many additional visitors unaffiliated with those categories may also come, but are planning on the assumption it could be an additional few thousand.

These are certainly substantial numbers, and the security considerations around the debate are unique. However, for perspective, we expect the actual number of people here will be on roughly the scale of Longwood graduation weekend, and fewer than for the Heart of Virginia Festival.

WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?

Some production crew and media will probably begin arriving about a week before the event, but we do not expect most media visitors to come until 1-2 days before the event, and some just the day itself. We hope they will spend time in the community, and particularly downtown, visiting, eating and shopping, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

WHERE WILL THE

DEBATE TAKE PLACE?

In Willett Hall on central campus, with the nearby Health and Fitness Center serving as media center. Ticketed guests will park at Lancer Park and travel by shuttle bus to campus. There will be a public watch party, on big screens, on campus, likely on Stubbs Mall.

HOW ARE LONGWOOD AND THE COMMUNITY PREPARING FOR THE DEBATE?

Longwood has roughly a dozen teams overseeing planning ranging from signage to facilities to hospitality. Some of these team leaders have been meeting regularly with counterparts from the Town of Farmville, including the town leadership and local organizations, who have been exceptionally helpful and supportive.

The area of closest cooperation has been public safety planning. Longwood Police Chief Robert Beach and Farmville Police Chief Curtis Davis have their own joint set of preparatory teams and are working closely with U.S. Secret Service, as well as the state police and nearby jurisdictions, who will both contribute substantial personnel on site to ensure the debate and associated events are safe and successful.

DO RESIDENTS NEED

TO LEAVE TOWN DURING THE DEBATE?

Absolutely not. We very much hope residents will stay and be part of the excitement of seeing the world visiting our community. There will be a number of debate-related events on campus that we hope community members will attend.

The primary impact of the debate will be on Longwood’s central campus. There may be some impact along South Main Street alongside campus in the period immediately surrounding the debate, but otherwise we do not believe it will disrupt normal routines in the broader community.