Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2003

Group wraps up bid for presidential debate

March 13, 2003

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The hotel rooms are tentatively reserved. The endorsement letters are gathered. The information packet is almost ready to be sent.

And the waiting game is about to begin for the committee trying to lure a 2004 presidential debate to Lawrence.

"I'm very optimistic because I think we have a lot to offer," said Clenece Hills, president of the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission.

The committee has compiled information for three packets to be sent to the Commission on Presidential Debates, which will probably select three sites for presidential debates and one for a vice-presidential debate.

Commission members will tour semifinalist sites in April, May and June, with a final decision announced by November. A debate in Lawrence would occur in October 2004 in the Lied Center, with Kansas University's Horejsi Family Athletics Center serving as the staging site for the more than 1,000 media staffers expected to attend.

Hills said the packet would be sent March 24, to guarantee delivery by the March 31 deadline. Among its contents:

  • Letters endorsing the project by many Lawrence leaders, including Mayor Sue Hack, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Lawrence Schools Supt. Randy Weseman and Karen Swisher, president of Haskell Indian Nations University.
  • Drawings of event sites and maps of transportation routes.
  • Information guaranteeing at least 2,500 hotel rooms are available in the area. Susan Henderson, marketing manager with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she had tentatively booked 2,552 hotel rooms in Lawrence, Topeka and Johnson County.
  • Visitor information about Lawrence, including tourist sites and golf courses.

The committee is soliciting a few additional letters and other pieces of information, and will compile five notebooks next week. Three will be sent to the debate commission, one will be kept at the Lawrence Public Library for public inspection and the committee will keep the final one.

If Lawrence is selected as a debate site, the committee will be responsible for securing $750,000 in local funds to help pay for the event.

"If we are selected, I don't think we'll have any trouble coming up with the money," Hills said. "I don't want this to be something where it looks like we're competing with the homeless (for money). This is at the heart of citizenship, and without citizenship we can't do anything about our issues."

Fred Pawlicki, associate director of the Lied Center and a committee member, said he thought the world situation might make Lawrence a good candidate for a debate.

"I like our chances to at least be selected as a semifinalist," he said. "We have great history, and we're a smaller place, so we don't have as much exposure to potential terrorism as you might in a major metropolitan area."

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