WEB UPDATE: Mall a serious option for Commencement

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 5, 4:20 p.m. University officials said Wednesday that the National Park Service has informed them the Mall area between 4th street and 7th street in front of Capitol Hill would be available for the 2006 Commencement ceremony.

National Park Service officials would not comment on the discussions with the University, saying only that they are ongoing. Michael Freedman, GW’s vice president of Communications, said no final decision has been made on the site. The University will be in discussions with the May 21 event’s contracted vendors to discuss the feasibility of holding the annual May ceremony on the three-block grassy strip in front of the Capitol building.

“We are progressing quickly with the National Mall area,” Freedman said. “The National Park Service has confirmed that the area, which appears to be a viable option for the ceremony, would be available.”

University officials learned in September that the White House Ellipse, where Commencement has been held every year except one since 1993, would not be available this year due to construction on the site.

The University has been planning for alternate sites for the ceremony since last May and did a walk through of the National Mall site on Wednesday.

“It’s a very pretty site,” Freedman said. “Behind the main stage would be the Capitol building and on the other side is the Washington Monument.”

Disadvantages to holding the event on the National Mall site, Freedman said, would be that some spectators could be sitting as far as three blocks away from the main stage. The University may rent large television screens to ensure that all attendees could see the event.

“We would be restricted to the center section of the Mall,” Freedman said. “If we do chose this site we will have to determine how to accommodate parents who are sitting three blocks away. We may have to put our creative thinking hats on.”

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