HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Looking ahead to Thursday night, the first GOP debate will be in the books and the spin will be in full swing, after all 17 candidates had their say in one of two debates inside the Quicken Loans Arena. But Wednesday was all about preparations.
Early Wednesday afternoon, we spotted dozens of campaign staffers gathered outside of the arena's southern entrance. Those staffers got a tour of the facility and a walk-though of sorts so they can best prep their respective candidates ahead of the debates.
The City of Cleveland is also getting ready, tidying up the downtown area around the arena for the thousands of visitors the debate is bringing THursday, and for the tens of thousands who will be here 11 months from now for the 2016 GOP national convention.
"This has only happened once before, where a debate was in the same city as a convention was coming to the following year," said Joe Roman with the Greater Cleveland Partnership. He is also on the organizing committee for the 2016 convention. "So it's a bonus. It's unique. It gives us a chance to, candidly, practice a little bit."
Five thousand spectators will be inside the arena for the four o'clock central forum featuring former Texas Governor Rick Perry and the eight o'clock prime time debate headlined by Donald Trump and including Houstonian Senator Ted Cruz.
Of those 5,000 tickets, just 500 of them are for the general public. Everyone else will have to watch the expected fireworks on television.
The debate, as far as Ohioans see it, is the kickoff to what will be a busy year for the Buckeye State.
"I think we will probably see candidates coming through this city, Columbus, Cincinnati, and the balance of the state on a pretty regular basis between now and next year," said Roman. "And that of course brings more attention and even some economic impact."
This is the largest field of primary candidates ever for a single political party. A huge audience is expected to tune in to see the dynamic on stage with so many vying for precious moments of airtime and what effect if any it has on narrowing down that field. null
GOP candidates prepare for debate