McKenzie Arena Executive Director Obie Webster, center left, meets with the Secret Service outside McKenzie Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. President Donald Trump is expected to hold a pre-election day rally at the arena on Sunday.

Updated on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, with more information.

Photo Gallery

Trump rally prep


Rally tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of two per registering mobile number.

To get tickets, go to

Days before President Donald Trump is scheduled to appear on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's campus, university officials, faculty, students and law enforcement personnel are busy preparing for the president's rally.

Secret Service personnel were on-site Wednesday, walking the perimeter of the arena and meeting with local law enforcement, including UTC police, Chattanooga police, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and the FBI to finalize logistics for the Sunday event.

The president's campaign paid $7,500 to rent McKenzie Arena for the rally taking place just days before the midterm election, a university spokesman said in an email. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn also will be present at the rally, her campaign has confirmed.

Obie Webster, executive director of the McKenzie Arena, said he was confident in his staff and the Secret Service providing security for the event.

"I've been in meetings all day as we figure out the plan for the event," Webster said. "Between the Secret Service and my staff, we'll be prepared."

UTC Interim Provost George Hynd sent out an email to faculty and staff Wednesday in preparation for the rally, which was only confirmed Monday.

"On Sunday, President Donald Trump and the Republican Party will be renting McKenzie Arena for a midterm election rally. This event may be quite exciting for some students and alienating for other students. Many of our students have never known a temperate political climate or witnessed civil debate. This is an opportunity for our students to demonstrate the possibility of healthy democratic discourse," Hynd said in the email.

He also emphasized that although the university is hosting the president, that does not indicate an endorsement.

"A public institution like UTC plays a significant role in helping communities engage in civic discourse, debate, and dialogue. We open our doors to the public and must be willing to allow all speakers who meet our policies the use of our facilities."

Webster anticipates protests and acknowledged he had heard some students were "less than thrilled" about the rally, but others are excited.

Stan Settles, president of UTC's College Republicans and a junior majoring in engineering, said he was excited the president would be in town.

"It's a close Senate race coming up and this is going to be the icing on the cake," Settles said of the Tennessee Senate race between Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen. Trump is stumping for Blackburn on Sunday.

"I think there will be a lot of students show up," Settles said. "I think that will be exciting."

The president's visit is an opportunity for students to be engaged in the political process, said political science professor Amanda Wintersieck.

"Having the president on campus creates political excitement for some of our students. For others, it's absolutely distressing," she said. "I think it's an opportunity for our students to be engaged, whether they attend the rally and are there in that capacity or whether they protest. Both of those are valid forms of political participation that deepen our attachment to our democratic society."

Jake Littleton, a junior majoring in political science and a member of the College Republicans group, acknowledged the rally is an opportunity for open dialogue.

"He does have some distasteful rhetoric," Littleton said of the president. "But I don't care who is president, this is a chance to go hear him speak in person. Aside from your party affiliation, this is an opportunity to be involved in our civil discourse."

Some UTC students were more concerned about information and security provided to the student body.

Camden Eckler, a junior and a member of the Student Government Association, said university officials attended an SGA meeting Tuesday night to address student worries.

"People were really concerned about what kind of message it would send that [President Trump] is going; some were concerned that it sent a partisan message," Eckler said. "People were also concerned about safety, but we were reassured a number of times that there are a lot of measures being taken to ensure student safety."

Though details of security and logistics weren't readily available Wednesday, university officials said they anticipate releasing more information about road closures, event details, areas set aside for protesters and more as the school works with its partners to finalize arrangements.

A Chattanooga Police Department spokesperson confirmed the department "will have additional officers on the campus of UTC and surrounding area on Sunday before and during President Trump's visit to Chattanooga."

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond also confirmed Thursday that HCSO is one of the primary law enforcement agencies planning for the visit. Sheriff deputies will be dispatched to the airport and aide in the president's motorcade.

Webster noted the arena would close to students and the public Saturday, but as of Wednesday members of the press were not allowed to enter it.

In addition to the $7,500 paid by the president's campaign, UTC will cover incidental costs per the contract, a university spokesman said. University officials said there would be added security costs for the event.

"We cannot say today what those costs will be, but we will be transparent about the total additional costs for security after the event and when they are known," the spokesman said in an email.

Staff writer Mark Pace contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.