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IU-Bloomington Campus Makes Bid to Host 2008 Presidential, Vice Presidential Debates

Richmond, Bloomington and that city’s Indiana University campus are preparing to show off their digs this month in bids to play host to one of the 2008 presidential or vice-presidential debates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates plans to visit Bloomington and the IU campus on July 17 and Richmond in Wayne County the next day to assess whether they should be chosen among four of 17 sites vying for one of three tentatively planned presidential debates and a vice-presidential one.

“I am not nervous at all,” said Jim Dinkle, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County. “The way I look at it this I’m sort of like a thoroughbred horse trainer. I know I have the best 3-year-old and if it’s win, place or show, we’re going to host a debate.”

Meanwhile, IU, the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation and the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention & Visitors Bureau hope to land a debate at IU through an effort spearheaded by the Indiana University Student Association.

Rob DeCleene, director of tourism for the convention bureau, said the visit by the debate commission and the Secret Service mark the time when the selection process gets serious.

“This is a big deal for us,” DeCleene said Friday. “It would bring huge exposure to Bloomington and IU and the state of Indiana in general and be a unique opportunity to play a part in democracy in action.”

Host cities must prove they can provide adequate facilities, including a 17,000-square-foot debate hall and a media room to accommodate about 3,000 journalists, and meet other guidelines for telecommunications, hotels, transportation and security.

Each city must pay more than $1.3 million to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit organization that coordinates the events, to cover production costs.

Whether Richmond or Bloomington lands a debate, Dinkle said he plans on writing a letter asking Gov. Mitch Daniels to have the state allocate $1 million to help with the cost of putting on the debate.

DeCleene said the July 17 site visit at IU would begin with a community and campus welcome, followed by several hours of touring and providing technical information. They will go to the Indiana Memorial Union and the IU Auditorium, the proposed site of the debate. The media site would be at the Wildermuth Recreational Center.

Dinkle said when the commission arrives in Richmond, it will review the Civil Hall’s features and tour such places as the new Reid Hospital campus, the Indiana University/Ivy Tech campus and the Depot District.

Recently, Arizona State and Ohio State universities rescinded their bids due to financial constraints.

The debate commission has said that besides the locations for three presidential debates and one vice-presidential one, two alternate locations also will be chosen this fall. The debates usually take place in October and September before the elections.

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