CLEVELAND - The countdown is on, as the nation's Republican presidential candidates head to Cleveland for the first GOP debate Thursday. From hotels, to restaurants, to the debate stage inside Quicken Loans Arena, preparations are underway.
Crews assembled the debate stage and portions of the Fox News set and rigged lighting inside the Q Monday. A curtain will divide the arena floor, separating the stage from a media "spin room" behind it. Curtains will also cover the upper level seating sections, creating an intimate setting for the candidates on stage and the people filling 4,500 seats during the debate.
On Tuesday, the ten candidates polling highest in recent national polls will be named to participate in the debate. Top remaining candidates will take part in a forum.
"I'd like to be there, and we just have to wait and see how all these polls work out," Ohio Governor and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich said on Fox News Sunday. "As it relates to the polls, I'm Governor of Ohio. I wasn't traveling around the country trying to make a name for myself, I was just trying to take care of Ohio."
Nearby upscale restaurants are already booking reservations. Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse has booked several of its private dining rooms for Thursday evening.
"Both Wednesday and Thursday nights we've seen quite a bit of increase in business due to the debate," General Manager Christopher Lambert said.
Lambert said he can't reveal names, but several VIPs already have reservations.
"We're used to celebrity guests coming in, so we have several private dining spaces available as well as two rear entrances," he said.
Downtown hotels are also seeing a spike in reservations. The Ritz-Carlton is booked Thursday night, according to a spokesperson, with plans for live music and patriotic drinks and flowers in the hotel lobby during check-in Wednesday and Thursday.
The City of Cleveland said it will have extra police officers on duty for anticipated protests near the Q at the time of the debate. There will also be traffic restrictions near the arena, including the closure of a portion of Huron Road Thursday.
The debate is set to air at 9 p.m. Thursday on Fox News Channel, with the forum airing at 5 p.m.
From the candidates, to the moderators, to the experts, we will be the only Cleveland TV station broadcasting LIVE inside Quicken Loans Arena.
It all starts with FOX 8 News in the Morning LIVE from the Q and continues all day including a special 11 p.m. edition of FOX 8 News right after the debate.