Verizon Center may be unavailable as backup site

One of Washington’s professional sports teams is throwing a wrench into the University’s Commencement plans.

With Commencement just one week away, the University could have to hold Commencement in the Smith Center because the Verizon Center, the backup site in recent years, might be unavailable due to the Washington Capitals’ playoff schedule. The Smith Center, which only holds 5,000 people, would be used in the event of a thunderstorm, but the ceremony would still be held outdoors in less inclement weather.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said GW will have “to wait until round three” of the National Hockey League’s playoffs before announcing finalized plans. If the Capitals don’t make it to the third round, the Verizon Center would be available.

“In the event the Verizon Center is not available as a result of playoff games, GW’s Charles E. Smith Center will serve as the backup site for the Sunday ceremony,” Schario said.

Using the Smith Center would mean that only graduates and the commencement platform party – the administrators, faculty and speakers who sit on the platform during the ceremony – would be in the building. All family and friends would watch the ceremony from “multiple video viewing sites,” according to Commencement plans.

The Smith Center is currently undergoing extensive renovations, but Schario said the space would be fully operational by May 15 because five schools are holding their individual celebrations in the Smith Center.

“We are going to take precautions to make sure the Smith Center is available,” Schario said. “We are having a plumber and electrician on call and will make sure that any debris are cleaned up.”

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