Seniors may sizzle Sunday

Graduation site lacks AC

Evan Adkins leads the way in graduation practice for Free State High School seniors who gathered Friday morning in Allen Fieldhouse to rehearse for Sunday's commencement ceremony.

Tim Brown, left, and Eric Ivins, general maintenance repair technicians for the Kansas University Athletics Department, clean the stands inside Allen Fieldhouse in preparation for this weekend's high school graduations. Temperatures are expected to reach 86-degrees on Sunday for both LHS and FSHS graduations. With no air conditioning in Allen Fieldhouse, organizers are planning for a steamy Sunday.

It could be toasty graduation Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.

With a forecast calling for temperatures in the mid- to high 80s, Free State and Lawrence High graduates, family and friends will be looking for ways to cope with the heat. The fieldhouse – more than 50 years old – is not air conditioned. It has a ventilation system with fans.

Still, if it is too hot and humid outside, the system won’t be able to keep up, especially with thousands of people inside, said Warren Corman, university architect.

Drinking enough water today will be the first key at trying to stay comfortable Sunday. Free State’s commencement begins at 1 p.m., and Lawrence High will follow at 4 p.m.

To survive the heat on Sunday, Heather Anderson, a nurse with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, provides these tips:

¢ Wear light clothing.

¢ Drink 16 to 32 ounces of fluid, preferably water, every two hours through the weekend.

¢ Fan yourself when possible while sitting in the heat, but try to find a seat with good air flow or one close to the floor.

¢ Take breaks if you need to, such as to get a drink of water or use the restroom. The ceremonies will last about 90 minutes each.

¢ Watch for others who may struggle with the heat, including the elderly or small children.

One of the warmest fieldhouse events in recent memory was on May 21, 2004, when former President Clinton delivered the inaugural Dole Lecture. Temperatures hovered between 90 and 95 degrees, according to published reports.

Adding an air-conditioning system to Allen Fieldhouse has been estimated in the past at $6 million to $7 million, Corman said. Upcoming improvements call for revamping only the ventilation system.

KU crews will open the fieldhouse windows Sunday morning and run the ventilation system to try to keep the basketball arena as cool as possible. But as more people fill the inside and temperatures climb outside, the hot air will rise, particularly during the second ceremony.

“Sit down as low as you can get,” Corman advised.

A Journal-World digital thermometer Friday afternoon measured temperatures between 76 and 79 degrees inside. The lights were off and no one was seated in the bleachers.

School district leaders wanted to have the ceremony in the fieldhouse to take a last-minute rain decision out of play and because they were happy with the 2007 graduation inside. Last year, administrators switched the ceremony into the fieldhouse from Memorial Stadium because of construction there.

Jan Gentry, an LHS assistant principal, said both schools warned graduates to dress comfortably under their gowns. Being able to design the ceremony months in advance inside as opposed to having to worry about rain change from a football stadium made things easier for both schools, she said.

“It really takes the pressure off,” Gentry said.