William & Mary is changing the location of its annual Commencement ceremony in order to accommodate more people at the event.
Starting this May, Commencement will be held in Zable Stadium and at an earlier time, 9 a.m. Previously, the ceremony took place in Kaplan Arena, which has a 10,000-person seating capacity.
“Zable Stadium could accommodate as many as 16,000 seats for graduates and guests. We are delighted that more family members per graduate will be able to attend this year’s main ceremony,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler, chair of the Commencement Policy Committee.
“We have stretched the capacity of Kaplan Arena as far as possible, yet for many years now, students have been able to invite only four guests to the main Commencement exercises,” she added. “This move to Zable is something the Commencement committee has discussed for some time. We recommended to the president that this be the year we make the move.”
The new location will allow each student more guest tickets, up to six. Zable Stadium is also more accessible for people with limited mobility.
“In Kaplan, guests in wheelchairs have been accommodated at the floor level, but other guests with limited mobility still had to navigate several steps to reach their seats in the section closest to the floor,” said Ambler. “In Zable, guests with limited mobility will not have to navigate any steps. The current parking plan includes more handicap spaces in the Zable lot and the ability for family to drop off guests close to the stadium before proceeding to off-site parking.”
The parking plan will be similar to previous years with most of it being available in the Kaplan lot and parking deck. Golf carts will also be available to transport people with mobility issues. Once it’s finalized, the parking plan is expected to be posted on the Commencement 2018 website.
The traditional walk across campus for seniors will still take place just before the main ceremony, scheduled for May 12 this year, with the Wren Building and the Crim Dell bridge as signature places along the route. The Commencement Policy Committee is developing a working group of faculty, staff and students to create plans for the walk as well as the academic procession.
Because the new location is an outdoor venue, the ceremony will begin earlier to increase the likelihood of cooler temperatures and decrease the chance of thunderstorms.
If torrential rain or thunderstorms do occur, the ceremony will move to Kaplan Arena, and only four guests per student will be allowed. However, if it’s raining only lightly, the ceremony will likely continue outdoors. While umbrellas will not be permitted, guests will be encouraged to bring rain gear and ponchos should precipitation be in the forecast.
“We are excited about this change,” said Ambler. “In the beautiful venue of our recently renovated Zable Stadium, students will be able to celebrate and share this grand occasion with even more of their family and friends.”
The last time that Commencement took place in Zable was 1993.