ARLINGTON -- Construction of the University of Texas at Arlington's College Park Center is still under way, but eight area high schools are planning to hold graduations there next year.
Arlington, Bowie, Lamar, Sam Houston and Seguin high schools will have their ceremonies at the new venue in June.
"We are looking forward to having five of our schools graduate at the College Park Center this spring," Arlington district Superintendent Jerry McCullough said in a statement. "It is exciting to be holding graduation ceremonies back in Arlington."
In the past, those schools held graduation at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie, district spokeswoman Amy Casas said.
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Casas said holding the ceremonies in Arlington is expected to be more convenient for graduates' relatives and friends.
A welcome addition
Colleyville Heritage, Grapevine and Nolan Catholic high schools are set to have graduations at College Park Center in May, according to UTA.
Megan Overman, spokeswoman for the Grapevine-Colleyville district, said its high schools' previous graduation ceremonies were at convention centers in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Overman said booking a graduation site is very competitive among large high schools -- Grapevine-Colleyville schools need a location that can fit their students and about 6,000 guests.
"We don't have a facility in our area that would do that," Overman said.
The UTA facility offers high schools another choice.
"Everybody is looking at the new facility as well, saying this is going to be another great venue to host our graduations," she said.
Overman said the site is also a cheaper choice during tight budget times.
"It's about a third of what we used to pay," she said, adding that figures weren't available.
College Park Center is a $78 million, 7,000-seat facility that will become home court for the university's basketball and volleyball games in 2012. It will be part of the College Park District, a 20-acre development that includes stores, student housing, green space and 1,800 garage parking spaces.
The first UTA basketball game at the new center is expected to be Feb. 1.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will speak at College Park Center as part of the Maverick Speaker Series in March. UTA's commencement ceremonies will be there instead of Texas Hall.
In addition to high school graduations, university leaders hope to also draw concerts and lectures to the center.
Sharon Carey, UTA's director of special facilities, said the school is working on booking events for March and beyond. She said there has been interest for roller derby, cheerleading and basketball tournaments.
"Our vision is for the College Park Center to become a destination point for people from Arlington and surrounding communities, including Fort Worth and Dallas," said John Hall, UTA's vice president for administration and campus operations. "We look forward to seeing thousands of North Texas students receive their diplomas and celebrate with family and friends."
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675