Winthrop University prepares for national spotlight

Published: Nov. 5, 2015 at 8:45 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 5:22 PM EST
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(Michael Clark | WBTV)
(Michael Clark | WBTV)

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - The campus of Winthrop University is starting to look more like the set of a national television show. Crews are already hard at work setting up a stage, lights, and equipment for Friday's democratic presidential forum.

The event will feature Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O' Malley at the Byrnes Auditorium in front of a few thousand people. University leaders and police in Rock Hill are preparing for big crowds and the spotlight.

Students walking past all the activity can't help but stop and look.

"It's exciting that they're here at Winthrop. It's kind of a small school, but it's home and it's kind of exciting that we're getting so much attention," said Olympia McCullough.

Like most students, McCullough was not able to get tickets. A very limited number were already passed out. But that doesn't mean she won't be involved.

"I'm going to the town hall. I'm going to be volunteering during The Chris Matthews Show," McCullough said.

Students will serve as volunteer ushers and even ambassadors to visitors riding the shuttle bus to campus. They'll have a chance to showcase their school to out-of-towners.

Parking will be tight for Friday's event.

"Parking is set up at our Winthrop Collesium, which is about a half a mile from our front gate, and there's about 1,200 parking places out there," said Walter Hardin with Winthrop University.

Hardin is helping get the Byrnes Auditorium ready for visitors. Cameras were not allowed inside to see the transformation, but Hardin said crews are hard at work.

"We had to takes some seats out so we could build a camera platform," said Hardin.

Rock Hill Police will team up with campus police to secure the grounds for the candidates.

"With Mrs. Clinton coming, it got bigger. So we have the Secret Service, we have the State Law Enforcement Division is helping us from the pre-building sweep to secure Byrnes Auditorium, some bomb team support," said Captain Mark Bollinger.

Rock Hill's motto is "Always On," and leaders expected the area to be packed Friday. There's a big high school football game and other events in town as well.

Busy Oakland Avenue, which runs through campus, will remain open after much debate. Police urge motorists to be prepared for congestion and traffic.

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