The 4,000-seat event center at Maryland Live! Casino & Hotel will welcome thousands of Anne Arundel County Public School graduates next week, a long-awaited change that was supposed to begin in 2020 but was delayed by two years due to the COVID pandemic.
Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said the new site has state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and large screens throughout, which should be a plus for attendees.
“[Family and friends] will have no problem watching their graduate receive their degree,” said Mosier.
The system scheduled three graduation ceremonies a day for its major high schools. The earliest will be at 9 a.m., then at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Mosier said each ceremony should take about 90 minutes, with time in between to reset the venue. Smaller schools will celebrate their graduates at other venues, starting with Chesapeake Science Point on Wednesday and ending with Marley Glen School on June 15.
It’s a tight turnaround between events, a Mosier and others pulled off last year when a similar schedule was used for outdoor graduations at Crofton High School. Officials had to plan for the heat and the onslaught of thousands of cicadas, obstacles that won’t exist at the air-conditioned event center.
He said that because schools vary in size, the allocation of tickets will vary, but each student in the system should receive at least five tickets for family and friends. There will be no live musical performances this year to ensure as many guests as possible for graduates, Mosier added.
“We are really excited about this. It will be a great experience,” he said.
In 2017, Anne Arundel County Council approved legislation authorizing a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, in which the county will waive up to $1.2 million in property taxes per year for 30 years to The Cordish Companies, owner of Maryland Live! In return, the company agreed to build a larger hall than originally planned and provide space each spring for public school and community college graduations.
For years, public schools held graduations at a venue in Prince George’s County because there was no venue in the county large enough to accommodate hundreds of graduates and thousands of guests. Maryland Live! place was seen as the solution to this dilemma.
The casino did not hold graduations in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. However, the space was still made available to the public in the fight against COVID-19.
From January to May 2021, the Anne Arundel County Health Department held 156 COVID vaccination clinics in the Casino’s Grand Ballroom. About 28,000 people have been vaccinated at these clinics, according to the department.
The casino has worked with the Maryland Department of Health to host weekend vaccination clinics at Live! between March and May 1 of this year, said Renee Mutchnik, director of communications for Live!
“Live! prides itself on being a strong corporate citizen and community supporter and has not been shy about volunteering in our space as a COVID vaccination clinic site and COVID test distribution site,” said she declared.
There are some things families should know at the new graduation location. No one under the age of 21 can enter the Live! casino, so staff will be on hand to guide visitors to the correct area.
Mutchnik said guests are encouraged to park in the lot in front of the hotel entrance, which will be the main entrance to the event. Families can line up up to 90 minutes in advance.
Anne Arundel Community College held its graduation ceremony at Live! Thursday. The college was included in the PILOT agreement. A total of 2,044 students graduated at two ceremonies and 2,488 diplomas and certificates were awarded, public relations officer Angie Hamlet said in a press release.
Here is the Anne Arundel County Public School Graduation Schedule:
Wednesday: Chesapeake Science Point, 6 p.m., at Severna Park High School
Thursday: Phoenix Academy, 10 a.m., at school. Evening High School, 7 p.m., at Severna Park High School
June 6: Old Mill High School, 9 a.m., at Live!; Central Special, 1 p.m., at school; Broadneck High School, 6 p.m., at Live!
June 7: Arundel High School, 9 a.m., at Live!; Chesapeake High School, 1:30 p.m., live! ; Glen Burnie High School, 6 p.m., at Live!
June 8: North County High School, 9 a.m., at Live!; Southern High School, 1:30 p.m., on Live!; South River High School, 6 p.m., at Live!
June 9: Severna Park High School, 9 a.m., at Live! ; Northeast High School, 1:30 p.m., on Live! ; Annapolis High School, 6 p.m., at Live!
June 10: Meade High School, 9 a.m., at Live!; Virtual Academy, 1:30 p.m., online; Ruth Parker Eason, 2:30 p.m., at school.
June 15: Marley Glen, 6 p.m., at school.