Centre getting ready for the 'calm before the swarm'

August 03, 2003|HERB BROCK

To most people, this time of the year is known as the "dog days of summer." But to Centre College people, the next several weeks have been dubbed the "calm before the swarm."

The "swarm" would be the mass of people that would descend on Centre if selected as a site for a 2004 presidential debate. But there actually is very little calm and a lot of people and things already are in motion to win the selection and get the campus ready.

"Calm is a relative term," said Centre Communications Director Mike Norris. "It's calm if you compare what it's like right now compared to the frenetic atmosphere we'll experience down the road and closer to the time of the debate we hopefully will land. But the pace of activities is picking up. Things are getting busy. In that way, it's not that calm."

Norris cited some examples:

* The selection process that will be followed by the Commission on Presidential Debates this year will be faster-paced than the one the commission used in 2000. That year, the commission announced the sites for presidential and vice-presidential debates in January 2000. The commission will reveal its choices for the 2004 debate sites in November of this year.


* The commission is expected to announce finalists for debate sites this month or in early September. Centre is among 14 sites being considered.

* Centre was "honored" to have served as the site for the 2000 vice-presidential debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman but is "very keenly interested" in serving as a presidential debate site rather than vice-presidential debate site this cycle.

* While not predicting victory, Centre officials are "optimistic" the college will at least survive the "first cut in the winnowing process." A major reason are the strong statements made by commission officials, applauding Centre and Danville for the 2000 performance. Also, nationwide publicity produced an increase in contributions and student applications to the college.

* With the commission's accelerated selection process, Centre and other prospective sites will have at least two more months to prepare for the debates. "We'd be getting a jump on getting things ready that we didn't have in 2000," said Norris.

* And Centre will need that jump because a presidential debate is a much larger operation and involves a lot more people and preparation, from providing greater security and more space for a much larger media contingent. "We've been told that we would need to plan for one third more people and equipment, especially media, than we had last time" Norris said. "The Washington press corps will be here in force." Also, there would be more security, not only because one of the debaters likely would be a sitting president but also because the security concerns brought on in this post-9/11 era.

* One of the facilities that would need to be larger this time around would be the media hall. In 2000, it was housed in the large and small gymnasiums and the ballroom in Sutcliffe Hall. In 2004, the media hall would encompass the new gymnasium being constructed as part of the renovation of Sutcliffe and Crounse halls and the existing gyms. "Completion of the new gym is a top priority for the renovation project. We expect it to be ready by the 2004 debate," Norris said.

* In addition to compiling numerous letters and drawings from local students promoting Centre for a presidential debate site, college officials already have made a formal pitch to commission leaders in person. Centre President John Roush and Vice President for College Relations Richard Trollinger recently visited Washington, D.C., where they met with Brown, the two commission co-chairs and members of Kentucky's congressional delegation.

Central Kentucky News Articles