We were taken aback to learn that the Lodi Unified School District is moving the Lodi and Tokay high school graduations to Stockton.
After all, isn’t graduation at the Grape Bowl, with senior classes striding proudly across the field, greeted by flower girls, a time-honored tradition? Generations of Lodians have graduated at the Grape Bowl, and the city spent $1.65 million to fix up the venue, in some measure to continue the tradition.
The move to the Spanos Center at University of the Pacific raises some obvious questions. Among them:
- Does the move save money or not? The district has a $27,000 contract to use the Spanos Center for four high school graduations (Lodi, Tokay, Bear Creek and McNair) and contends that using the Grape Bowl would cost $30,000 just for Lodi and Tokay’s ceremonies. The city says, at least on its end, costs for the Grape Bowl graduations were minimal.
- Is the seating capacity at the Grape Bowl an issue? The Spanos Center has considerably higher capacity, but city officials say the Grape Bowl seating of 4,000 is enough. Some seating was removed during the recent renovation, completed in large part to satisfy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (That work was propelled by a Tokay High student’s filing of an ADA lawsuit eventually settled for $45,000. Now, the work is done and the graduations, apparently, are going away. Hard to ignore that irony.)
- Is the weather an issue? The Grape Bowl can get hot and windy. It can be downright uncomfortable sweating through processions and speeches in the early-evening sun. On the other hand, as the sun melts to the west and the Delta breeze starts to rise, it can be a delightful setting. And long-time locals we checked with couldn’t recall any graduations that were canceled because of the weather.
- And another question, this one a little sticky: Were Lodi Unified and the city on the same page with all of this? Why would renovations have been completed, if they were, that would make the staging of graduations at the Grape Bowl more difficult instead of more convenient? Why would city leaders vote to spend extra money to speed work on the Grape Bowl so graduations could be held on time if the events weren’t going to be held there at all?
Reminds us of the famous line from the classic Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
Maybe the rich tradition of high school graduations at the Grape Bowl can and should be retained.
Or maybe it is time to drive down to the bigger, air-conditioned Spanos Center where the weather and seating space are not issues.
We think this is worth further clarification — and discussion. How about a special session of the City Council and school board to lay out the facts and let the public be heard?