Boulder campus ready for Republican presidential candidates

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BOULDER, Colo. -- Presidential politics will take center stage in Colorado on Wednesday as the 14 Republicans vying to become the next president will debate at the University of Colorado.

Security is tight on the Boulder campus as the university prepares for the candidates' arrivals.

Several streets in and around the campus are closed and possible traffic jams are expected on highways between Denver and Boulder as the candidates make their way into town.

Planning for the event began in the spring when CNBC approached the university about possibly hosting the event. However, the set-up for the event didn't begin until late last week.

On Tuesday, crews were busy transforming the Coors Events Center into a debate hall. Others put the finishing touches on the spin room, a practice gymnasium being converted into a large room that will house close to 500 journalists who will be covering the debate.

"This room's going to be packed. There's going to be a lot of excitement, a lot of intensity," said John Legittino, the man in charge of setting up the room.

Legittino is used to pre-debate madness, having helped with hundreds of live television events when he was Mitt Romney's production manager in 2012.

As far as Wednesday's debate, lighting had to be installed in the spin room, carpet laid down and more than six miles of Internet cable brought in to insure that journalists will be able to file their reports.

Related: Debate links and resources

Outside the arena, roadblocks, metal detectors and fences have been installed.

"It's certainly a large security presence," CU spokesman Ryan Huff said.

Dozens of television satellite trucks lined the streets surrounding the venue. The debate's three moderators have also been busy prepping.

Carl Quintanilla is one of them. He's an anchor at NBC News but used to work at the Daily Camera in Boulder after graduating from CU. He's now facing his biggest test on campus.

"I wasn't the best student, but you get treated like a prince when you come back to your alma mater. I think they're proud. I'm proud," he said.

As far as debate planning, he said he has been preparing for months.

"We started getting up to speed on policy positions a long time ago, so the last month has just been questions and pacing. Who's going to get asked this, who's going to get asked that," he said.

CU has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the debate, but campus leaders said it's worth it.

When the University of Denver hosted a presidential debate in 2012 between President Barack Obama and Romney, the college said it earned $56 million worth of publicity and saw a significant spike in enrollment.

The debate featuring the 10 leading candidates will begin at 6 p.m. The four candidates receiving less than 1 percent voter support in the polls will debate at 4 p.m.