Highland Park High School Moves Graduation to Allen

Come graduation day, Highland Park seniors will need caps, gowns, and wheels.

Long-planned renovations to SMU’s Moody Coliseum have forced at least a couple of Dallas high schools to relocate this year for their commencement ceremonies. In Highland Park’s case, that means a more-than-20-mile drive north to Allen.

SMU gave notice of the impending closure back in 2011, Highland Park principal Walter Kelly said.

The search for a replacement was “a careful review process,” he said — one that took more than a year and involved researching more than a dozen would-be facilities including the American Airlines Center and Plano’s sprawling Prestonwood Baptist Church.

Seating for around 6,000 people is a must-have, and the Allen Event Center obviously isn’t the only large, indoor venue in the area. But some required a two-year commitment, Kelly explained, or a tidy kickback from concessions — which won’t amount to much when you consider the absence of alcohol sales at a high-school commencement ceremony. Others had space available on Saturday nights, but Scots tradition calls for a Friday-night ceremony.

Like Highland Park, Bishop Dunne High School typically holds its commencement at Moody. But this year, the Friars will walk the stage at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center, which is 4 miles closer to the Park Cities than the Allen facility.

The Culwell Center will also host 28 other graduations between May 9 and June 12, including seven for Garland ISD, five for Mesquite ISD, and four for Richardson ISD. In fact, the SMU basketball team will play games there next season during Moody’s renovation.

At least Highland Park parents’ worries about nostalgia seem to have taken a backseat. The long haul on Central Expressway is the biggest complaint he’s heard about the change, Kelly said.

“We regret the distance families will have to travel for graduation,” he said. “We thank them for that — and we recognize that this is only for one year.”

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