This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Expect packs of roaming national reporters, rich donors crowding into exclusive receptions and watch parties for all of those Utahns who couldn't score a coveted ticket.
Hosting a presidential debate is no little thing, particularly for a state that has never done it before.
It's still not clear where the Republican candidates will debate when they come to Utah on March 21, which TV network will air the showdown or who will still be in the race.
But even at this early stage, a comparison to other debates can give a sense of what to expect.
Milwaukee has held a Republican and a Democratic presidential debate this season, and Kristin Settle, with the city's visitors bureau, estimates that each event had an economic impact of $5 million to $10 million.
She said hundreds of reporters, campaign staffers and voters flew in, booked 1,200 hotel rooms and rented scores of cars.
"There's no question the hotels were packed, local restaurants and bars were packed, people got out and explored the city beyond the debate," Settle said.
Moreover, she said, each candidate held a fundraiser and some even mingled with voters after the debate.
Far more valuable than that direct economic benefit is the media attention on the city and the state, said Scott Beck, CEO of Visit Salt Lake, anticipating hours upon hours of cable news coverage with Utah's capital as its backdrop.
Then there is the interest from local conservatives who want to see the presidential candidates up close.
Fox Business sponsored the Milwaukee debate, and about 4,100 people attended in a posh downtown theater. That would be on the larger end of a traditional debate crowd, said Enid Greene Mickelsen, Utah's committeewoman on the Republican National Committee and a former U.S. House member.
She's hoping for an audience of 5,000 people, though some debates have been far more intimate affairs with crowds of roughly 400.
A debate at the University of Colorado Boulder had 1,000 attendees. It all depends on the type of event the TV station has in mind.
"We here in Utah are begging to have it in as large a venue as possible," Mickelsen said.
Maverik Center in West Valley City has expressed interest. The RNC is likely to look at nearby colleges and universities. It could come to Abravanel Hall or maybe the Salt Palace Convention Center, according to Bruce Hough, Utah's RNC committeeman.
The party is expected to make a decision soon. When it does, the candidates will get an allotment of tickets, and so will the Utah Republican Party. A university would likely get a block of seats if it is held on its campus.
Hough said it's possible the state party will hold a ticket lottery, though that decision hasn't been finalized.
"My intent has always been that these should not be elite events," he said.
The party will outline ticketing procedures on http://www.utah.gop in the coming days.
Utah's debate will come after Super Tuesday, when 13 states will award their delegates and likely narrow the field. Republican insiders expect that at least three candidates will still be in the race by March 21. At this point, the three top candidates are businessman Donald Trump and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are also still in the race.
A UtahPolicy.com poll, released Monday and conducted by Dan Jones, shows that Utah Republicans favor Rubio.
This poll, which spans Feb. 10 to Feb. 15, found that Rubio had 24 percent support, followed closely by Cruz at 22 percent and Trump at 18 percent. This poll had Jeb Bush at 9 percentage points, though the former Florida governor has since dropped out of the race.
Part of the reason the RNC picked Utah for this additional debate is because the state is holding an online presidential caucus vote on March 22. Registered Republicans can sign up through the party's website to vote online on that day, or they can attend regular neighborhood meetings.
The winner will claim Utah's 40 GOP delegates.
Arizona is holding a primary, and Republicans in American Samoa will hold a convention that same day.
Mickelsen hopes the debate will increase turnout in Utah, which has struggled to garner voter interest in recent elections. But with a crowded and competitive field, she fully expects that Utah Republicans can help the party choose a nominee.
"Your vote has never counted more than it does in this presidential contest," she said.