Oct. 8, 2004 – Presidential Debate

President George W. Bush debated Sen. John Kerry Oct. 8, 2004, during a nationally televised town-hall forum from the Field House at the Athletics Complex.

George W. Bush vs. John Kerry

Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush face off at 2004 debate. (NY Times Photo)
Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush face off at 2004 debate. (NY Times Photo)

The candidates sat on stools at the north end of the Field House, while the 140 town-hall participants sat on tiered rows of seats surrounding the candidates.

Television lights bathed the stage, while the audience in the balcony sat in relative darkness. Six network television platforms had been erected at the south end of the debate hall, where the networks broadcast live before and after the debate.

Moderator Charles Gibson had received questions from the town-hall participants before the debate, and he chose which would be asked. The candidates didn’t know what the questions would be, and the town-hall participants didn’t know if they would get to ask a question until Gibson called on them.

Seating in the debate hall was limited to the town-hall participants and some 900 guests — including 183 winners of the student ticket lottery and an additional 50 student volunteers.

The media filing center, which included “spin alley,” was set up in the Recreational Gymnasium of the Athletics Complex. The 18 rows of tables running the width of the gym had Internet access and telephones, and were accompanied by more than 50 televisions.

More than 1,500 journalists from across the globe traveled to the university to cover the debate.

According to SBC Communications Inc. and the university, 1,600 voice and data lines and 60 DSL lines were added at the Athletics Complex; 53 miles of fiber-optic cable stretched across the Danforth Campus and 10 major power generators were used.

Much preparation work had been done since Nov. 6, 2003, when the university — along with sponsors A.G. Edwards, Bank of America, BJC HealthCare and Emerson — announced that it would host a debate.