Bleachers meet with mixed reviews at MHS graduation
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair High School’s solution to the seating shortage for graduation — to set up bleachers outside the amphitheater on Park Street — appears to have been met with mixed reactions from some those assigned to the metal seats.
Last year, large numbers of parents were left standing outside the amphitheater when the venue became filled to the 1,500 capacity.
There has been a running debate among Montclair residents about whether to continue using the amphitheater for graduation ceremonies or move them to another venue, like Woodman Field. Those arguing in favor of the football stadium have asserted that the amphitheater can no longer accommodate the large numbers of graduates and their families. Supporters of the amphitheater however, have said using the amphitheater is too important a tradition in Montclair to do away with.
This year the school, with the help of the township, closed off Park Street and set up bleachers in order to seat another 600 people. And families were also given four tickets, up one from last year’s three-ticket limit.
The bleachers were met with mixed reviews from some.
“A lot of people got to sit down that weren’t going to,” said Ron Handelman, father of Rachel who was graduating. “It was a good, fast solution.”
But for others, the temperatures in the mid-80s were just too much. The bleachers had been positioned facing west, toward the amphitheater. The time of day and the height of the buildings meant that people sitting in the bleachers had the sun in their faces for a good part of the ceremony, and many people who brought fans were thankful.
“I think they did the best they could with the best they had, but I think they should use the football stadium,” said Diane Enright, whose son, Jason, was graduating. Enright had started out sitting in the bleachers, but moved to the overflow seating area in the auditorium after the bleachers got too hot.
Brooke Williams, whose daughter Maya was graduating, said that she had planned to sit in the bleachers, but reconsidered after she saw people fanning themselves.
One grandmother who identified herself only as Jami agreed the sun was also an issue. “Maybe if they had more covering [over the bleachers], it wouldn’t be so bad.”
The extra ticket was for bleacher-seating only meaning one family member sat alone.
Even with the bleachers, the amphitheater rapidly filled to capacity, and there were still large overflow crowds standing at the back of the amphitheater and out on Park Street.
“How come they didn’t have it in the football stadium? It doesn’t make sense,” asked Gerald Johnson, whose daughter, Bria, was graduating. He said that the district wasn’t making enough use of its available facilities. “If everyone wants to come and they see there’s a turnout, you’ve got to think of the people rather than the event.”