Those who made it to RFK Stadium on Saturday night for the Roma-Chelsea friendly witnessed an entertaining preseason show, a 2-1 victory by the Blues decided in the waning moments.
Many ticket holders, however, missed a large portion of the match — or missed the game altogether.
The problem was not the crowd size. Announced attendance was 25,615, which was about what organizers anticipated and 20,000 fewer than for the sold-out U.S. vs. Germany match in June.
It was not the weather or road issues: a gorgeous summer evening and highway construction on weekend break.
It was not the day or time of day: a Saturday with no rush-hour issues.
Fans, though, had a more difficult time than usual approaching the stadium and accessing the parking lots. Police appeared to change the traffic patterns and funnel cars onto side streets or away from the stadium instead of directly into the lots.
Part of the problem was an event had taken place on the stadium grounds earlier in the day: the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge 5K. As such, lots 6 and 7 were closed for the soccer match. Most fans park in Lot 8, but the closure of the other areas appeared to disrupt normal pregame rhythm.
In hindsight, the decision to schedule both the 5K and the match on the same day, despite a gap of several hours, was a mistake. The 5K was planned first. The friendly was thrown together on three weeks’ notice after promoters were unable to reach a deal to play at, among other proposed venues, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
One soccer fan wrote to me:
“I paid over 325 dollars for two good tickets to the Roma Chelsea match. Left Crystal City an hour and a half prior to kickoff and made it to one of the parking lots of RFK at the beginning of the second half, at which point we decided to go home because of the time still required to find a spot to park and then make the walk to the stadium. It was a nightmare and even with event insurance I cannot get my money back. The traffic around the stadium crawled at a snails pace and they only had some of the lots open.”
Another wrote to the Sports Bog:
“DC Police and the event staff at RFK could not house everyone. So fans such as myself were forced to turn around and head home without getting to see the match. With the main entrance (“The Tunnel”) to RFK via 295 now closed, we took the streets like everyone else did. However, each time we would try to enter a lot to park in, a police officer would randomly close it off (before it was even full), and we were completely screwed. This happened multiple times, and we had to actually attempt to leave the stadium completely and circle back toward RFK. The second time we did, though, we took E. Capitol St. Well, as we turn right onto it, we see cars in the right and middle lanes going straight toward the stadium, while other cars are flying in reverse coming straight at us!”
He continued …
“My dad and I, along with three friends, bought five tickets in the 303 section a month ago. We paid close to $300, and we were denied access to the game. That, IMO, is terrible. My dad is a die-hard Chelsea fan and this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience from him, and I feel terrible for him. I’ve been to plenty of events in DC over the years but have never seen anything like this. I’ve never been turned away from a game I purchased tickets for. There were a lot of angry people, many of them screaming at the police and giving them the finger/other obscene gestures–It wasn’t a pretty sight.”
From the letters to the editor in The Post this morning:
“Shame on the organizers. I purchased tickets to attend Saturday’s game at RFK Stadium and arrived by car with my daughter at roughly 6:45 p.m. for an 8 p.m. game. According to The Post, only about 21,000 tickets had been sold, so we mistakenly figured getting there 75 minutes before game time would be adequate. Upon arrival, there was not a single sign or employee to direct traffic. Parking lots were either not open or full. The D.C. police on duty tried to be helpful, but they had no idea what to tell people and ended up sending people in a giant, gridlocked circle around the stadium. At 8:15, with the game having started, no parking available and no end to the gridlock in sight, we simply left. There is no excuse for such a complete lack of preparedness.”
@SoccerInsider Brought 12 yr old son for birthday to see first Chelsea game from Richmond, couldn’t park car, went home with 2 unused tix
— Kevin Cousins (@kevincousins) August 11, 2013
Another from Twitter:
@SoccerInsider I missed half of the game since they had so many parking lots closed. Then still had to pay $25 fee.
— Cashforecaster (@Cashforecaster) August 11, 2013
If you had a similar experience, please share it in our comments section …