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Presidential debate moved to Miami after the University of Michigan withdraws

The debate will be held Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

MIAMI — The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts will host a presidential debate in October, bringing the full weight of the 2020 election to Miami less than three weeks before Nov. 3 election.

The county-owned venue, home to the first Democratic primary debates in June of last year, confirmed Tuesday morning that it will host the event. The debate is expected to be the second between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The first is scheduled Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana.

The Arsht Center is also listed on the website for The Commission on Presidential Debates, which says the debate will be televised Oct. 15 from 9 to 10:30 p.m. EDT without commercial breaks. The site said the Miami debate will be a “town meeting,” a format through which the commission says “questions will be posed by citizens from the Miami area.”

“We are honored to have the opportunity to represent Miami on the global stage and to play a small role in the democratic process,” said Johann Zietsman, president of the non-profit Arsht Center, which runs the complex.

The New York Times first reported Monday night that the debate would be held in Miami after the University of Michigan withdrew as the host over concerns about hosting throngs of reporters, campaign staff and event attendees from around the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This debate was originally scheduled for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University has concluded that it is not feasible to host the presidential debate as planned,” states a debate commission news release. “The (commission) will be following all CDC, state, county and site health and safety protocols at the four debate sites.”

The Arsht Center remains closed as a result of the pandemic, but the nonprofit that runs the facility submitted a reopening plan Monday night to county administrators for approval. It includes a requirement that anyone entering the Arsht Center wear a mask at all times unless eating.

Suzette Espinosa, head of communications for Arsht, said of the debate Tuesday that “both parties have agreed to comply with all health directives.”

The Arsht’s reopening plan also slashed capacity for the theaters inside. While the Knight Concert Hall can hold more than 2,000 people, the submitted Arsht plan caps capacity there at 384. The Ziff opera house has seating for 2,400 people, but capacity in the plan is listed as 560.

The debate is the second major political event to relocate in recent weeks to Florida, where confirmed coronavirus cases passed the 100,000 mark Monday. The Republican National Committee announced early this month that it would move most of its presidential convention events to Jacksonville after the governor of North Carolina balked at demands to commit to allow a packed arena in Charlotte.