Verizon Center opened its doors 30 minutes early last night, but when some fans got to the gates, they encountered lines that they weren’t expecting. A few took to Twitter, offering photos of crowds at both the F Street and Gallery Place entrances to the arena
I spoke about the issue with team officials, who cited multiple reasons for longer-than-usual waits to get into the arena.
“Well over half [of the fans] came in between 6:45 and 7:05,” said Jim Van Stone, Monumental Entertainment’s Senior VP of Ticket Sales & Services. “The gates at F Street, everyone was cleared and in the building by 7:05. The weather was just very cold, and I think that heightened everyone’s fears or concerns.”
Of the fans that I talked to, most agreed that it wasn’t so much the wait, but rather the conditions, that had them frustrated.
“Honestly, it was really only 10 or 15 minutes,” said Ashley Arneson, who tweeted the pic above of a line outside the F Street gate. “But when you’re standing outside in 21-degree weather, it feels like a lifetime.”
Some fans assumed that the team’s new ticketing system was to blame. Each season ticket holder is issued a plastic card, similar to a credit card, that arena employees swipe at the gate and print out small “seat locator” slips that list the section, row and seat numbers corresponding to the fans’ purchases. The Verizon Center has been using the cards for Wizards games since the start of the season, and so it wasn’t a new process for arena personnel, who work both teams’ games. The difference: Caps games draw more fans, and last night’s crowd was sold out.
One season ticket holder I spoke to, who declined to give his name, expressed frustration over getting to the front of the line just as the employee taking tickets needed to change the paper in her printer, while fans with printed PDF tickets in an adjacent line breezed through. Another fan said his card didn’t work.
“We have not seen any difference [in time] on our end with people bringing in paper tickets with bar codes, and a group coming in and swiping the card and having the ticket locator printing out locator slips,” said Van Stone, who explained that fans who have the swipe cards have the option of printing their tickets at home for free if they prefer. “We had 6,000 cards issued for the game, and 2,700 were used at the door. There were 7,000 PDFs” used Tuesday.
Another Verizon Center rep said 17 of the 2,700 cards used at the door were faulty, and those fans will have new cards before Thursday’s game against Montreal.
Perhaps an even bigger reason for the entry delays was the use of metal-detecting wands on each fan by security personnel, a practice that team owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog was recommended by the league.
The wanding and swipe cards are new practices this season, and the Monumental Sports representatives I spoke to said there will be a bit of an adjustment process for everyone involved. Following the home opener, some fans were more forgiving than others.
“The Caps meant well by the new season ticket holder and security policy, but it does have some wrinkles to work out,” said Jon Halperin in an e-mail to the Bog. “Hopefully it will be smoother as the season goes on.”