UW-Milwaukee preps for Democratic presidential debate


February 11, 2016


MILWAUKEE University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee planners, grounds crew and students have been putting in some long days to make sure everything is set for this week's Democratic presidential debate.

Ground crews and about 30 students have been working 12- to 13-hour days per day for about three weeks to prepare for Thursday's debate at Helen Bader Concert Hall in the university's Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, Randall Trumbull-Holper, director of facilities for the Peck School of the Arts, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Wbzsam ).

Musical instruments and other equipment have been moved out of the concert hall to make way for the debate stage and "PBS NewsHour" accommodations. All of the chairs have been removed from the balcony to make way for CNN's broadcast set.

"The hardest part is trying to anticipate everything," Trumbull-Holper said Monday.

The facilities director even has a backup plan in case temperatures dip into the single digits, causing the water to freeze in the external tank for the presidential candidates' bathroom trailer, which will be placed just offstage in case Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders needs to use the restroom during a commercial break.

Trumbull-Holper also has crackerjack sound technicians working to address problems with acoustics in the concert hall. There are some areas on the stage where a person could whisper and be heard, and other areas that are dead without amplification, he said.

Additionally, dents and dings have been smoothed in the lobby walls outside the concert halls, carpet has been replaced, and the former synagogue's stained glass windows have been repainted in spots.

All normal activity in the Zelazo Center will be suspended by the end of the day Wednesday and will be moved elsewhere through Friday. The building will be completely shut down to anyone without clearance on Thursday.

About 700 people will be in the audience during the debate. An estimated 400 journalists will set up across the street in the student union.

"PBS NewsHour" will pay the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about $50,000 to cover expenses.


Associated Press