Here’s the scoop on Rockland’s bid to host one of next year’s presidential debates

President Cliff Wood spells out economic benefits of Rockland Community College hosting a presidential debate.
President Cliff Wood spells out economic benefits of Rockland Community College hosting a presidential debate.

Rockland Debates 2016 on Monday hosted its first fundraiser toward the goal of hosting the “Olympics” of national politics–a presidential debate–at Rockland Community College.

RCC is one of 15 schools nationwide competing for the coveted spot. “We deserve the opportunity,” said Tim Englert, a member of the Rockland Debates 2016 team, who sees the college’s location as an ideal spot for a presidential forum. The college has already been visited by the Secret Service and Commission on Presidential Debates as part of the process.

RCC President Dr. Cliff Wood touted the economic success host schools of prior presidential debates have seen. “When we looked at the economic benefit brought to Lynn College in Boca Raton after it hosted one of the debates in 2012, the results were staggering. The college’s recognition received the equivalent of over $63 million in national publicity…and there are many more benefits that will put Rockland in the national spotlight…Palm Beach County saw an immediate $13 million economic impact.”

“The County Legislature passed a resolution to bring the debate here,” said Debate team member Matt Deutschman. “We have the support of SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. There are a lot of major players on board.”

There is a cost factor: $1.9 million in fees and approximately $3.5 million in upgrades would be needed for the campus’s technology and other infrastructure improvements. Dr. Wood says the expenditure is worth the economic impact hosting a debate would have for Rockland.

Hotels, restaurants, local attractions and the new Tappan Zee Bridge–the largest construction job in the U.S.– will be at the doorstep for those attending and those watching the debate. All in all, supporters predict they will see both economic benefit and national exposure that would attract companies to the “Gateway of the Mid-Hudson.”

RCC, if chosen, would also be the first community college to host a presidential debate, making it a win-win for Rockland and for all community colleges across the country. A decision is expected by November 2015.