The Kingston High School (KHS) Class of 2023 will have their graduation ceremony at Dietz Stadium after all.
Work on the extensive $20 million project to restore and upgrade the venerable facility was meant to be underway, but during a planning meeting last month it was revealed that construction delays allowed not only for the KHS graduation ceremony to take place in its traditional venue, but also for many of the Tigers’ spring sports to be played there as well.
KCSD Superintendent Paul Padalino last week said he learned of the shifting schedule at a meeting with Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, architects and project managers, and the district’s Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics Richard Silverstein.
“Due to several things going on with construction, and that tends to happen, they were able to push back the start (of renovations) to after our graduation,” said Padalino in a telephone interview on Friday, May 12.
The superintendent added that construction outfits had a pre-bid walkthrough last week, but that work being performed on a state contract where bids aren’t required could begin as soon as the graduation ceremony is over.
After casting a net across the Hudson Valley, the KCSD planned the graduation ceremony for Albert C. Gruner Memorial Field on Friday, June 23. Gruner Field, as its more commonly known, is located in Lake Katrine, just south of the district’s M. Clifford Miller Middle School.
Other frontrunners included local events space Hutton Brickyards, which was already booked graduation weekend; and the athletic field at Rondout Valley High School, a little over 15 miles southwest from the KHS campus.
“(The Rondout Valley Central School District) were unbelievably generous and helpful,” Padalino said earlier this year. “They have a fantastic facility down there, it’s brand new, it’s gorgeous.”
But after a handful of site visits, KCSD officials met with student representatives and Class of 2023 advisors and Rondout was put on the back burner for two primary reasons. The first was that the KHS graduation ceremony is traditionally held on a Friday, and Rondout High’s commencement was already booked for that night. And the other was that no matter how nice Rondout’s facilities were, there was something they could never provide: They aren’t in Kingston.
After settling on Gruner Field, the district grappled with figuring out how to accommodate enough space for family and friends of a graduating class of over 450 students, particularly as KHS commencement ceremonies frequently pack a few thousand people into Dietz.
Instead, the Class of 2023 will receive their diplomas at Dietz Stadium, which even before renovations are complete, can handle a big crowd.
“I wish we had known that in February when before we went so crazy with everything we did,” Padalino said. But he added that they are already looking into how the Class of 2024 graduation ceremony will look, as renovation plans at Dietz mean it will be unavailable next June. The superintendent said they are planning to meet with student representatives of next year’s graduating class as soon as possible.
“Who knows, maybe next year the senior class would prefer to go to another stadium close by rather than Gruner Field,” Padalino said. “And there were some venues here in our area that were booked (for the Class of 2023 ceremony) because we didn’t look into them soon enough, so we’re going to start looking into those now…We’re going to almost start from scratch, get the kids together early and let’s weigh our options and get it done.”
Padalino added that having Dietz available for spring sports has been great for the district’s student-athletes, particularly those who were able to play Senior Night games at the stadium. And like the graduation plans for next year, the superintendent said the district will also begin nailing down venues for spring sports ordinarily played at Dietz immediately.