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The Arena Has 11,000 Seats but 10,000 Will Be Empty at GOP Debate

The upcoming Republican debate is taking place at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.

Students were promised a rate taste of the political system in action, but as the debate approaches, the 11,000 seat arena will feature 10,000 empty seats and the university has only been granted 100 seats for the debate.

“The way it was explained to us by CNBC is the event is meant for a TV audience, not so much for a live audience,” said Ryan Lynch, the executive director of the Colorado Republican Party, which will get 200 tickets to split among party donors and elected officials.

University of Colorado senior Aaron Estevez-Miller is upset with the outcome and wants seats to be opened up for interested students.

“The undergraduate student body is over 30,000-people strong,” said Estevez-Miller, noting that doesn’t include faculty, staff or graduate students.

At that point, you know, [the candidates] could be half a mile away at the Coors Center or hundreds of miles away in D.C. and it would make no difference,” said Estevez-Miller.

“We think it’ll be a great opportunity for the community, the economic impact, the branding for CU and for Boulder,” said university spokesman Ryan Huff. “I think that will inspire some people to apply who maybe have never heard of our university before or want to learn more about it.”

NPR reports:

University officials didn’t know the school would get such a small number of tickets when CNBC approached it about hosting, said Huff.

There’s also the question of why famously liberal Boulder, where 70 percent of voters backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012, would host this debate.

“You know if you look at the voter registration, Boulder would lean left, but this was another event we could have to really broaden the kind of viewpoints for our students to hear,” said Huff.

But students won’t hear those voices in person — even those who are potentially open to the Republican Party’s message in a likely swing state. Freshman Dylan Robinson-Ruet is registered as an independent and eager to vote for the first time in 2016 but said Republican organizers and CNBC are missing out on a chance to connect with students.

“I mean obviously their focus is national, but they’re on our campus and I expected it to be more than a facade. Because that’s all we’re being used as,” said Robinson-Ruet.

So while the candidates debate inside, Robinson-Ruet says he plans to be outside protesting the event.

Photo credit: New Yorker.

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