National Mall upgrades shift Commencement

The first phase of a three-pronged construction project on the National Mall will force this year’s Commencement ceremony to a new location, giving audience members a view of the Washington Monument instead of the Capitol building.

The stage and seating for the University-wide ceremony will shift down the Mall to the area between 7th and 14th streets, National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said Thursday.

The location will cut back on noise pollution and ease the construction eyesore, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

“Everything about the ceremony will stay the same,” Sherrard said.

The ceremony has been held in front of the Capitol building, between 4th and 7th streets, since 2006.

The construction that has taken over the green space – known as the Mall’s official parade staging area – in front of the Capitol since mid-summer is scheduled for completion in December. The National Park Service, which oversees the project, will spruce up gravel pathways and install more eco-friendly lawn panels and drains to help irrigation between 3rd and 7th streets. The final two parts of the project are set to be completed by fall 2016.

The mall will experience “more noise and dust than normal” from the construction, according to the National Park Service website.

Johnson said the National Park Service has worked closely with GW to ensure the Mall is ready for Commencement, looking at “everything from location to security to resource management.”

As in past years, the ceremony will relocate to the Smith Center – which only accommodates about 5,000 out of 25,000 expected guests – in the event of inclement weather.

This post was updated on April 30, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to a reporting error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the University-wide Commencement ceremony was first held at the National Mall in 2005. In fact, it was 2006.

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