This story has been updated

The Republican presidential debate at the University of Alabama on December 6 will be a first-ever for the state of Alabama. It will also be the first debate in this election cycle on a college campus.

A problem arose due to the small debate hall. Only a few students will be allowed to attend. An on-campus presidential debate, but the students have few seats.

So, the Alabama Republican Party stepped forward with a solution. They are sponsoring a debate watch at a nearby venue.

The debate watch will be open to all students and young people at the Westgate Skygate Club, 1150 8th Street, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401, starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Tickets to the debate watch are free but must be ordered here.

The actual debate venue is the Moody Music Building, the campus headquarters of the Million Dollar Band, the largest organized student group at the University of Alabama. It is a small venue for the size of the audience normally watching a presidential debate, with a capacity of only 1,000.

The 100,077-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium was not available for the debate because, at the same time as the debate, the stadium is the site of the Alabama state championship high school football game for 7A, the largest classification of high school athletics. The football championship game has been scheduled on this particular date for over a year. There will be far more attendees at the high school football championship game than at the presidential debate, both on the same campus simultaneously.

The 15,383-seat Coleman Coliseum, used for basketball games, is also unavailable, so the smaller Moody Music Building, with a strictly enforced max of 1,000 attendees, is. It is a hard sell-out. Tickets are harder to get than an Alabama football playoff game.

UA students and other locals will also have a second chance to participate. On Thursday morning, the day after the debate, locals are invited to a "Fox & Friends" live broadcast of “Breakfast With Friends.” It will be from 5 to 8 a.m. at Brick & Spoon, a popular breakfast place in downtown Tuscaloosa. The crew will ask the locals about their take on the debate of the night before.

No tickets or RSVP are required for the Thursday "Breakfast With Friends."  Just show up.

There will be four presidential candidates on the Alabama debate stage. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all met the stringent qualifications for debate four — number of donations and polling standings. The first debate on August 23 had eight qualifiers who debated.

The Alabama debate is debate number four for Republican presidential candidates. The number of debaters who qualified and debated has dropped for each debate.

The candidate leading in all the Republican polls, former President Donald Trump, will not participate. He skipped the first three GOP debates, which has not hurt his poll numbers.

A mass invasion of national and international news media is expected for the debate. Media seats to get inside the debate hall are also restricted, and many reporters, camera operators and videographers will be outside the facility watching via closed-circuit TV and taking pictures of candidates, campaign staff and attendees coming and going.

1819 News will cover the debate, have live X-Twitter coverage and post a news story afterward. 

UPDATE 3:25 p.m.:

The University of Alabama said students not being allowed, which was in the initial report, "is inaccurate and misrepresents the event."

"The University received a set allotment of tickets from the RNC for distribution to students, alumni, University leaders, state and local officials, and guests," Monica Watts, associate VP for communications, told 1819 News. "The Student Government Association led the distribution efforts for student tickets."

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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