Monday, September 8, 2008

Mystery solved: Beer company to host Belmont hospitality tent

Beyond adding patriotic bunting and rows of banners in every direction, bringing a presidential debate to Belmont University also involves some sacrifices — namely, the school’s soccer field.

Crews began covering the field with enough black mats to serve as the floor of a 25,000-square-foot tent that will house as many as 600 media members for the Oct. 7 debate.

By the end of Monday, most of the field had gone from green to black.

“It won’t be the whole thing, but it will be close,” Keith Krzeminski, a sales and operations manager with Private Event Group, a part of Classic Party Rentals Nashville, said of the field.

Barring weather delays, the tent is expected to be up by Thursday, but moving in all the equipment and wiring will take at least two weeks.

“We’re doing a number of different things to ensure there will be enough power and Internet,” including the use of generators, said Pamela Johnson, Belmont’s debate coordinator.

AT&T will provide phone and Internet services for the 600 media workspaces. With the crews combined, nearly 30 people may be working on the media tent at any one time.

The tent location has forced the men’s and women’s soccer teams to separate locations: the women to nearby Vanderbilt University, the men to fields in northwest Nashville owned by the University School of Nashville.

Belmont athletics director Mike Strickland said the teams had not been affected much by the move, as evidenced by their winning records.

“Our women’s soccer team, that’s not that bad; they’re right across the road,” Strickland said. The men have had to make a little bit of an adjustment, because they have to drive out … but it’s not too much of a problem at class time,” Strickland said.

After the debate is over, the tent will take nearly as long to disassemble, and the field’s turf will have to be replaced, Strickland said. The teams won’t be able to use the field until the following fall, when they might be playing at E.S. Rose Park under a deal approved by the Metro Council last year, Strickland said.

Beer company to host separate tent

An additional 5,000-square-foot hospitality tent with food for media, volunteers and university staff will be located on the school’s tennis courts next to the soccer field.

That tent, along with similar areas at the other three debates, will be hosted by Anheuser-Busch, which has been a sponsor during the last four presidential debate seasons. It’s a quirky match with the private, Christian school, which just cut ties with the Southern Baptist Convention last year.

Johnson said Anheuser-Busch would not have any advertising on the campus, but a statement from the company indicated it would have a “unique” presence. Belmont does not permit alcohol on campus.

“At the hospitality areas, we also take the opportunity to share information about Anheuser-Busch’s longstanding support of the U.S. political process and our company’s commitment to economic and social responsibility,” Michael Roche, vice president of national affairs for Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.

The company did not release Monday how much it paid for this year’s national sponsorship, but it donated $500,000 for the 1992 presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the school’s Web site.

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