Stadium Series Disaster: Airforce Academy

Visually speaking, the Stadium Series was well done. However, that’s about all that was appealing if you were watching as a Colorado Avalanche fan.

The problems arose with logistics, vendor supply, facilities, parking, weather, traffic, public transportation, and honestly everything else… oh yeah, and to top it all off, the Avalanche played a dud of a game and lost 3-1 to the 21-33-5 Los Angeles Kings.

Tyler Toffoli recorded the first-ever NHL Stadium Series hat-trick, both power plays the Avalanche got were nullified nearly immediately by offsetting penalties, the team was bullied off the puck and seemingly out-hustled all night. They also didn’t record a shot on goal in the last five minutes of play.

The Hockey was disappointing, but quite frankly wasn’t even in the top 10 worst problems of the evening.

I was one of the fortunate few that didn’t pay for a ticket, and instead volunteered to work as a crowd control inside the stadium working at one of the merchandise booths. I had to show up at 2 p.m. CMT to get training, proper clothing, sent to my booth before gates opened and really just so that we could be there long before we were ever needed. Most people would show up to an evening game a few hours early to tailgate, have some fun, and in this case visit the fan zone which had games, food, drinks, live music and other vendors to keep people entertained before puck drop.

I left Broomfield, CO at 12 p.m. CMT (earlier in the day I had checked navigation to confirm the length of the trip and it said it was 1:15 away). Due to traffic and some other factors, it took me 2:45 to get to the stadium. I arrived late for my volunteer time slot, but in the grand scheme of things, I was there three hours before puck drop and really didn’t miss anything, except the absolute travesty that would be the traffic situation that would continue to compound long after my arrival.

A couple causes for this traffic were logistical, getting onto a military base requires a booth attendant to check every vehicle and every individual in that vehicle’s license. There were accidents all along Interstate-25, that caused slowdowns. There was also construction and further I-25 issues that caused slowdowns, delays, and lane consolidation which started the problems. People also can’t take an Uber, Lyft, or other public transportation onto a military base.

Finally, there are only two entrances to the base, with two lanes of traffic heading into the base.

To turn off of the main street to head toward the stadium, it was a left turn without a traffic light, meaning you would have to wait for a gap in opposite flow traffic. If everything leading up to this point had not already been problem enough, they then trim the road to the stadium down to one lane and use the right lane for parking lot attendants to guide cars into each of the respective six lots.

Another micro-problem that I was glad to avoid because of a parking pass provided to volunteers, was it was $30 cash only parking for the entire lot. Now, cash-only lots aren’t uncommon, but $30 cash isn’t exactly a normal fare. It’s pricey, and people have started getting used to electronic payment methods available at venues.

People were being stopped in the lots without cash, being turned off base to go get cash and return to the traffic they had already endured.

Now mind you, up to this point I’ve only talked about the traffic problem. They eventually ran out of parking in the lots, forcing people to park upwards of a mile away so that folks were taking 20-30 minute walks just to get into the stadium.

Traffic is rough, parking far away is rough, and walking into the stadium is far from fun, but its nothing that people won’t put up with if the experience at the game is good, right?

Well, I’ve got bad news. If you were fortunate enough to get into the fan zone area and enjoy some of the festivities with time to spare, before entering the stadium, you better hope you were also able to avoid the literal six-inches of standing water/mud/snow that was covered in wood chips, camouflaging it from the naked eye.

I was standing at the entrance waiting for my host and watched a handful of people sink their feet into the water, up to their ankles, that being the first thing that happened to them in the fan zone. Imagine a less than 30-degree day, where the very first thing you did that day was soak your socks and shoes in water.

Say you managed to avoid that and had a few hours of just enjoyment of the fan zone: drinks, food, shopping, photos with the Stanley Cup, mini hockey games, photos, and really lots of other entertainment. Well, from what I could tell lines were absolutely insane.

Hundreds of people in line for nearly everything. The bathrooms at 2:45 p.m. CMT were easily 200 people deep with 10 port-a-potties composing the restroom area outside of the stadium. The area looked really nice though, live music lots of fans, the sun was out and the weather hadn’t yet become an enemy of the people.

Now let’s say about 3:30 p.m. CMT, I’m inside the stadium at my booth looking down the barrel of the gun as 46,692 people (capacity of the stadium) start lining up to enter the stadium, for a 4 p.m. CMT gate open time. I’m stationed at the main entrance on the south side of the venue, and there are exactly three attendants checking tickets. The line goes honestly as far as the eye can see.

This isn’t exactly the worst part, because people understand getting into a venue is time-consuming and the game is still two hours away making it feel like people still have tons of time. But combine traffic, parking, lines in the fan zone, and now yet another line without enough workers to make it an efficient process.

People finally get into the stadium, and are in awe of what they are seeing, it’s really aesthetically pleasing and you feel a sense of joy and happiness that you’re finally in the venue, and the game will start you get to watch hockey, drink some beers, eat some food and just be happy. Well, sad news again, the lines inside the venue are an absolute abomination.

I waited in line for 45 minutes for Dickey’s BBQ for Mac-N-Cheese and a few shreds of Brisket, which I paid $21 for with a bottle of soda. I heard from people at the venue the bathroom lines weren’t reasonable, the Chick-fil-A and other food suppliers ran out of food, the drink providers ran out of alcohol, the number of people wasn’t supported by the number of vendors and facilities in the stadium.

Also, there were still people who were just getting into the stadium well into the second period and into the second intermission.

Around 5 p.m. CMT, the sun goes down and the weather starts to be a serious problem. Sub-thirty degrees, people are pissed off, cold, hungry, unsatisfied, and they paid an absolute premium to be at this event. Now, I was furious because the volunteer service told us we were working an eight-hour shift, and that we would get breaks and dinner, well I’d been working for six straight hours standing on my feet, and nobody had any idea about food or breaks. We were told to just take off and get food, take some time to sit down, and find someplace to get warm.

I took my time, and after waiting for BBQ, I could sense that this venue was about to be a literal zoo when the game was over, I made a business decision to abandon my post two minutes before the start of the third period and leave before I could get any angrier at the completely laughable lack of planning. Now, let’s look at it this way, I didn’t pay for a ticket, so leaving the game early was just a matter of I’d rather beat traffic than see the end of the game, and from what I could tell I made the best decision of my 2020 so far.

It took me 25 minutes to get from the stadium parking lot to the highway, which is less than two miles. I passed people walking to their cars with their thumbs up looking for rides to their cars. I passed accidents. I passed cars broken down. I passed people run out of gas from waiting too long. I saw what happens when an event is placed in a venue that could not support that event.

The Avalanche lost and played bad, the traffic was abysmal, the parking situation turned into a nightmare later in the evening, the fan zone had a booby-trap lake to ensnare its victims, the venue ran out of food and drinks, there weren’t enough facilities to support a packed house, there were enough staff members to make the lines move at a reasonable pace, the Airforce stadium speaker system was awful at best, and the stadium only had metal bench seating which, let’s be honest, is antiquated and terrible.

I have friends and family go Facebook live with fans trying to leave the game tearing posts out of the ground to create through traffic areas. I heard people say it took them four hours to get from the stadium to downtown Denver (1.5 hours normally), we have to assume everyone that drove there drove home because they couldn’t get ridesharing or another transportation home. When I was trying to leave, my truck was stuck in the mud and ice mixture I was forced to park in, which had eventually frozen over and snared my tires. It took me about 10 minutes of digging in the dark to get my truck to the point I could push it by myself to an area I could then drive.

People walking in the freezing cold, for miles, to get to their vehicles. The Avs and the NHL unintentionally created the Stadium Series version of the Fyre Festival that was a complete and udder failure as well as a logistical nightmare that very well could have resulted in more than just severe fan anger. People could have been injured. A riot could have been evoked. People could have frozen trying to sleep in their cars. Drunk fans could have felt that driving was the only way they could get home.

If I paid for a ticket, I 100 percent would be displeased than I am, and I’ve taken a few hours out of my Sunday to write a first-hand account of the situation. I fully believe the attendants deserve a refund, and if the NHL and Avalanche don’t at least offer an apology or anything to try and make it right, the fans should take action. I heard people say they spent hundreds of dollars on tickets to a show that wasn’t anything more than a total failure. Premium price for a terrible experience means the fans should be refunded.

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One Response

  1. Agreed, I spent a ton of money for tickets and the “awesome” overall experience was overshadowed by all the things you listed above. It took me four hours to get home, two of which were getting off the base. After that experience, I’ll never go there for any event.

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