WASHINGTON — Bradley University's 4,200-seat Renaissance Coliseum will be the site of Washington Community High School's graduation ceremony in 2019.
School Board members Tuesday approved a one-year contract with the university.
It will cost an estimated $7,085 to hold the graduation ceremony May 19, 2019, at Renaissance Coliseum. That includes a $3,000 rental fee, $2,900 for operating costs such as security, traffic control, custodial work and video board operation, and $1,185 for equipment rental.
There's a 50 percent discount on the equipment rental because Peoria Public Schools will hold its graduation ceremonies the previous day at Renaissance Coliseum and items such as the stage, floor carpet and podium will already be set up.
It's believed to be the first time Washington high school's graduation ceremony will be held outside of Washington. Renaissance Coliseum is on Bradley's campus in Peoria.
"We'll just show up and have the ceremony," said Superintendent Kyle Freeman. "We won't have to worry about seating, a big screen, the microphone, speakers, the weather ... that will be kind of nice."
The high school is making the move to Renaissance Coliseum because it has outgrown its indoor graduation ceremony venue — the 1,100-seat Caterpillar Performing Arts Center at Five Points Washington.
Each graduate is guaranteed only three tickets when weather forces the ceremony indoors from Babcook Field on the high school campus, where there is plenty of seating for graduates' family members and friends.
"We're looking at least 10 tickets for each graduate at Renaissance Coliseum," Freeman said. "There are more than 4,000 seats there, plus standing room."
Torry Gym at the high school was the site of the graduation ceremony for many years until 2010, when heat and humidity inside the gym caused the sound system to malfunction.
A decision was made to make Babcook Field and Five Points the new graduation ceremony sites starting in 2011.
Five Points was chosen as the indoor spot because it's near the high school and there's no charge for the high school to use the venue.
The graduation ceremony was moved indoors to Five Points three straight years, from 2011 to 2013, and again in 2015. Babcook Field was the graduation site in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Sixth-day enrollment figures show there are 336 students in the high school's Class of 2018. There are 321 students in the Class of 2019, then things get interesting.
There are 372 sophomores and 341 freshmen at the high school. And there are 393 eighth-graders in three feeder school districts and St. Patrick School.
This school year's high school enrollment is 1,370. Enrollment is expected to be 1,427 next school year.
"Our enrollment has grown by more than 200 students in my four years here and it's projected to keep growing to more than 1,500 by the 2024-2025 school year," Freeman said.
High school administrators explored a graduation ceremony venue change for a few years before recommending Renaissance Coliseum to the School Board.
"We checked out several places, like Renaissance Coliseum, Eureka College, Illinois Central College and the Peoria Civic Center. Places that are in close proximity to our community and are conducive to our size graduating class," Freeman said.
"Renaissance Coliseum is a good choice for us because of its proximity, seating capacity, and other high school graduations are held there."
Peoria Public Schools' three high schools have held graduation ceremonies at Renaissance Coliseum since 2012. The facility opened in 2010.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.