With last Sunday serving as the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, Belmont University has confirmed its intent to pursue hosting another debate in 2020. The university will officially submit its proposal to the Commission on Presidential Debates in the first quarter of 2019.
Belmont previously hosted the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate between then-candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, and the university served as the official alternate host site in 2016. The Mayor’s Office and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (CVC), both strong partners for the 2008 debate and subsequent bids, will once again step forward to support Belmont’s efforts to bring a presidential debate to middle Tennessee.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said: “Belmont University, the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee all received tremendous civic, educational and economic benefits from the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate. Hosting events where students and citizens can engage in important conversations that are imperative to our community and our nation is a perfect reflection of Belmont’s mission, and we would welcome the opportunity to bring another presidential debate to our campus and the Nashville community.”
Following the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, a writer for USA Today said: “Belmont University in Nashville proved that small places with big ambitions could be world-class stages.”
Now a decade later, the explosive growth of both Belmont and Nashville has made the ‘small places’ phrase obsolete, and each has repeatedly proven its ability to provide ‘world-class stages’ for an array of large events. Since 2008, Belmont University has continued to demonstrate its expertise hosting major broadcast events, including numerous gubernatorial and mayoral debates, the internationally televised Davis Cup tennis competition and, most recently, the television taping of ‘CMA Country Christmas’ featuring artists Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Michael W. Smith, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall, among others. The holiday special will air on ABC later this year.
Moreover, Nashville has drawn an increasing number of significant opportunities that bring thousands to a city whose reputation continues to expand beyond its Music City moniker.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said: “The 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate turned the eyes of the world toward Nashville, a significant marker in a long line of events that has brought global attention to our great city. The dynamic growth and economic development we’ve seen in the decade since have only expanded our ability to provide genuine hospitality to the campaigns, media and guests that would accompany another presidential debate.”
Nashville CVC CEO Butch Spyridon said: “Nashville is a multi-dimensional city people return to again and again because of the creative, hospitable and authentic atmosphere they encounter here. Our central location and prominence in the healthcare, entertainment, education and tourism industries provide a perfect backdrop for conversations about our nation’s future. The CVC team supports Belmont’s bid for a presidential debate and stands ready to assist the Commission on Presidential Debates with any needs they might have for a 2020 event.”
By the time of the 2020 debate, Nashville will have hosted annual CMA Fest events drawing capacity crowds, the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend, annual July 4th ‘Let Freedom Ring’ celebrations exceeding 250,000 attendees and the 2019 NFL Draft, not to mention a variety of conventions, festivals and award shows. The city will also be in the national spotlight in 2019 with next fall’s release of Ken Burns’ newest documentary, Country Music, a series sponsored in part by Belmont.
With more than 41,000 hotel rooms in the metro area, a robust tourism industry and an inclusive hospitality mindset, the city is well prepared to host the political dignitaries, guests and media that would accompany a presidential debate. In fact, more than 5,000 new hotel rooms have opened in Nashville in the past five years alone with another 5,400 under construction in Davidson Country, a strong indication of the area’s ongoing popularity as a must-see destination. Many of these spaces come in a dozen new full-service and boutique hotel brands located in the heart of downtown.
The 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, the first to be held in Tennessee, scored a ratings coup nationwide. According to Nielsen Media Ratings, more than 63.2 million homes nationwide tuned in to view the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, the largest television audience of the three presidential debates held that fall. In addition, the event attracted thousands of media and other visitors to Nashville and resulted in both an economic boost and more than 5,200 media hits in the days leading up to and following the debate.
Belmont hosts final gubernatorial debate Friday
Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee, the two candidates for governor of Tennessee, will appear on Belmont University’s campus Friday evening for the final of three televised statewide debates. Broadcast live from the Troutt Theater, the debate will air exclusively from 7-8 pm, Central, on News2 WKRN and will also be streamed live on <WKRN.com>.
For both candidates, the final debate will be a bit of a homecoming, as Lee serves on Belmont University’s Board of Trustees while Dean has taught political science at Belmont. Both candidates last appeared together on campus in January as participants in a SCORE forum on education.