Kiichiro Sato, AP
In this Aug. 29, 2008, file photo, Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin delivers a speech as Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduces her as his vice presidential running mate at Wright State University's Ervin J. Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced four universities that will host three presidential debates and a vice presidential debate for the 2016 general election campaign, including the first presidential debate scheduled at Wright State University on Sept. 26, 2016. The other universities are Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Longwood University in Virginia.

ST. LOUIS — Four universities were chosen Wednesday to host the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates, including veteran host Washington University in St. Louis and, marking the first such debate in Nevada, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The sites — which also include first-time hosts Wright State University in Ohio and Longwood University in Virginia — were among 16 schools and cities that submitted bids in April to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

The organization, which didn't specify why each site was chosen, has sponsored the official presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.

"We look forward to working with these fine universities and their students and communities to bring these important civic events to the nation," commission co-chairmen Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry said in a statement.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, will be the backup site. Dominican University of California will lead an initiative using technology and social media to engage young voters in a discussion of major issues in the 2016 debates, the commission said.

Next year's first presidential debate will be held Sept. 26 at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. Washington University will host the second debate on Oct. 9, while the University of Nevada will hold the Oct. 19 debate in Las Vegas.

Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, will host the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.

Wright State President David Hopkins called the selection "very gratifying and humbling," saying: "This is a huge win for all of us."

Joan Neff, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Longwood, added: "For Longwood students, the chance to experience a debate on campus will be a part of their college experience they will never forget."

A spokeswoman for the commission said formats for each debate have not yet been set.

Washington University has hosted more debates sponsored by the commission than any other institution. The school staged presidential debates in 1992, 2000 and 2004, and a vice presidential debate in 2008. It was picked for a 1996 debate but the event was canceled when the number of debates that year was cut to two from three.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton said several factors played in Washington University's favor, including its central U.S. location and its track record in successfully carrying out debates. The debate will be in the field house, where seating can accommodate roughly 2,000 people.

"They quite obviously have confidence in us," he said. "We're thrilled to have the opportunity to host again."

The debate at UNLV will mark the first time one of the commission's presidential debates has taken place in Nevada.

UNLV's presidential adviser for strategic initiatives, Don Snyder, said it signals an incredible turnaround for Las Vegas. He said business and political meeting organizers were unfairly urged to avoid the city during the recession.

"And I think for the presidential debates to be here, totally allows that message to be turned not just (into) a positive but an incredible positive, in terms of being able to market the destination and really market the university," he said. "It's the university on center stage."

Associated Press writer Kimberly Pierceall in Las Vegas contributed to this report.