Sears Centre offering a suite view for high school graduations
Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre Arena for the first time will offer parents and family members of high school graduates the option to lease a private suite at upcoming commencement ceremonies rather than watch from general admission seating.
"It's something I've seen other buildings do," Sears Centre General Manager Ben Gibbs said. "I can't take credit for the idea."
The arena will charge $425 for each of the 15-seat private suites. A 12-pack of bottled water is included.
The Sears Centre will host 18 graduations this spring, including for Fremd, Palatine and Conant high schools in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211; Jacobs, Dundee-Crown and Hampshire high schools in Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300; Warren Township High School; and Mundelein High School. Suites will not be available for commencement ceremonies there for Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire or the five high schools of Elgin Area School District U-46.
Seating capacity at graduation ceremonies has never been an issue at the 11,000-seat arena, Gibbs said. The target market for the suites would be families wanting to avoid any stress from having to save a large number of seats in one place on the lower level.
Just over a week after the offer was announced, Gibbs said the response has been positive, but it's still too early to know how many people will ultimately be interested.
The suites aren't available for the U-46 ceremonies because all five schools are holding their events in a single day, making it hard to ensure the suites could be cleaned so many times so quickly, Gibbs said.
As far as Stevenson, the decision to not make the suites available was the school's.
"For us, this is an equity issue," Jim Conrey, Stevenson's public information coordinator. "We want all of our families to have a similar experience at graduation. Spending $425 to rent a suite for two or three hours at graduation is a drop in the bucket for some families, but for others, that's a lot of money. We don't need a 'haves versus have-nots' situation at what is supposed to be a shared celebration."
Conrey said each graduating senior at Stevenson receives eight tickets to the ceremony.
The Sears Centre has largely been attracting schools that are moving commencement ceremonies off campus -- particularly those that previously held graduations outdoors -- and losing very few once they've made the change, Gibbs said.
"I don't know how practical it is in this day and age to hold it outside and just hope you don't have rain," he said.
District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen said Palatine High School is the only one of the district's schools that still holds graduation on campus.
Hoffman Estates High School holds its commencement at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.