Jim Worthington, owner of Newtown Athletic Club, found out his business would be hosting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while about 300 people were there to watch the presidential debate on Wednesday.
He got a call around 8:15 p.m that night about hosting a rally on Friday — a half-hour later, he signed a contract, making it official.
“They couldn’t believe it,” Worthington said, when he told everyone the news. “They were ecstatic.”
Worthington has been in touch with Ted Christian, Pennsylvania director for Trump’s campaign and a Bucks County resident, throughout the presidential race.
“He knew about my facility, and I kept talking to him about the possibility,” Worthington said. “They asked if I could take it on short notice, and I said absolutely.”
The event will be held at the Newtown Athletic Club’s Sports Training Center, a 40,000-square-foot facility located next to the Newtown Athletic Club. The center’s floor is a turf playing surface, usually rented for local leagues, competitions, expos and other events. On Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., it’ll be Trump’s territory.
“It’s probably one of the biggest indoor facilities in Bucks County other than at some of the schools,” Worthington said. “I can’t think of anything near as big.”
In August, a few hundred Bucks County supporters came out to see Trump’s choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at a warehouse-style building owned by Pipersville manufacturer Worth & Company. Trump’s appearance should bring out supporters in larger numbers.
Worthington said that his facility can hold “thousands,” but noted that capacity will be determined after Trump’s staff visits the site on Thursday.
He recognized that there could be some backlash from non-Republican members of the Newtown Athletic Club, but the opportunity to host a presidential candidate on his home turf was something he couldn’t pass up.
The facility has never been used for a political event of this scale, but Worthington has hosted smaller political gatherings at his home, and both parties have rented the Sports Training Center for fundraisers.
Worthington has been a supporter of the GOP throughout this election cycle, most notably as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention held over the summer in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I think he’s the imperfect candidate at the perfect time,” he said of Trump. “Some of the things he says, though they’re not good, are not worse than the things (Hillary Clinton) has done.”
“On Nov. 8, he could be president,” Worthington continued. “We’re so excited.”
The Newtown Athletic Club Sports Training Center is located at 120 Pheasant Run in Newtown. Doors open 4:30 p.m. Members of the public can RSVP for the event at donaldjtrump.com.