A lack of public transportation, Interstate 25 construction/congestion and just two entrances/exits from I-25 contributed to angry Avalanche fans with tickets to Saturday’s NHL Stadium Series event at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium.
The game began at 6:14 p.m. and a sellout crowd of 43,574 was announced during the third period. But hundreds of those fans either missed the first half of the game or turned around to go home after sitting in traffic for hours.
Absolute disaster getting in. We only got to see the third period. pic.twitter.com/VQUAQEtJDR
— patrick (@avsrule33) February 16, 2020
“It”s not that people were being dumb and leaving too late, it’s that this place has absolutely no clue how to handle a crowd and event of this magnitude,” Ben Parker of Parker wrote in an email that had photos attached documenting his experience. “The sad part is that aside from the absolute disaster with traffic and parking, I think this was probably one of the best outdoor venues the NHL has ever had as far as actually viewing the game. (Darn) shame that it was ruined for so many people. Demands for refunds or partial refunds or at the very least refunds on all parking charges are 100% valid.”
From the press box during the first intermission when Sam Hunt and his band took the stage, hundreds of vehicles were seen in traffic, trying to park. And nearly two hours after the game ended at 8:46 p.m. there was heavy traffic in the parking lots and main arteries leading to the north and south gates.
Fans also complained of long lines for concessions, merchandise and the bathrooms, with concessionaires running out of food and beer. And those who took Uber or Lyft rides into the Academy could not get one out because security at the two gates wouldn’t let them in postgame, or Uber/Lyft drivers canceled because they didn’t want to deal with the traffic — leaving those dependent on an app-based ride to walk several miles or hitchhike to one of the two gates.
“Took Uber over two hours to go 10 miles and barely made it to game,” Brian Capsay wrote on Twitter. “Couldn’t get Uber out and had to walk over two miles with 7 and 8 year old until nice gentleman picked us up from hitchhiking.”
“It was every major failure I feared of my old alma mater and I worry deeply it will forever color people’s impression of the school,” Air Force graduate Reginald Short wrote in an email.
“We arrived at 1:30 yesterday, and spent two hours in a merchandise line only to be told that they were sold out of most of what we wanted,” Short added. “Tried to see Stanley Cup — told line was two hours so we went inside.”
Short said his lower-level seats cost $200 apiece. “No sightline of game, totally dependent on video display. One cold hot dog to share for four of us — none of our local very good food vendors were obviously present due to NHL deal.”
An Avalanche spokesman had no comment, saying it was a league event. Attempts have been made to get a response from the NHL, but so far none has been given to The Post. AFA spokesman Troy Garnhart told The Post that the Academy and the NHL would address the situation later Sunday.
Former University of Denver goalie Jim Mullin said his evening “was a nightmare.”
“Waited in line to buy a jersey for my daughter for over an hour– get to front and cashier says ‘no youth sizes, only men’s large.’ Food lines 30-minute wait. Bathroom 30-minute wait. Getting up to the seats (only two entryways with narrow stairs on north and south sides) was almost 60-minute wait. We left after the second period anticipating leaving would be a nightmare. Was the worst run sporting event I have ever been to.”
Brendan Kelly of Castle Pines drove to O’Malley’s in Palmer Lake for a pregame meal, leaving just 10 miles to get to Falcon Stadium. Departing at 4:45 p.m. seemed like a good plan, but “Google maps said 58 minutes for 10 miles and Google kept increasing the estimated time,” Kelly said.
Two miles from Air Force’s North Gate, “It was about 6 and we pulled the plug,” he said.
Two words: Canadian Woodstock. pic.twitter.com/LMjia8BjM1
— George (@GeorgeTalksAvs) February 16, 2020
One fan and his father got exactly what they expected.
“Anyone who lives in Colorado likely knows about the horrific traffic we now live with. Throw in thousands of cars heading to the game in a construction zone, I’m not surprised about the horrific stories,” Tyler Ehlers of Aurora said. “My dad and I left from Aurora at about 1 p.m. We took CO83 down to avoid I-25. We pulled into our parking spot at about 2:30.
“The parking lot was icy/muddy, but were people expecting the NHL/AFA to stop winter? That comes with having a game at 6,600 feet in February.”
Ehlers added that he has attended an Air Force football game against Notre Dame and was expecting a three-hour wait to get out of the Academy grounds.
The Falcons finished 11-2 last season and their biggest home game was against Army, with the Nov. 2 attendance listed at 41,401. Air Force’s other big home game was against Wyoming, drawing 21,425 fans. The Falcons’ average attendance in six home games was 27,084.
Craig Pierce of Denver said he finally arrived at Falcon Stadium late in the second period but no staffing was present to scan his tickets. “There was a big sign that said ‘No reentry’ but we just walked right in. Never been to a professional event where they had a wide-open door,” Pierce said.
Mike Rowe of Parker said a lack of parking attendants led to a “free-for-all” in the muddy lots and there were no ushers near his seats. Rowe said he has attended football games at AFA when Colorado State and Notre Dame have played there.
“It was the absolute worst experience I have ever had at the Air Force Academy,” he said. “The NHL, AFA, and Colorado Springs should be ashamed of themselves.”
A second outdoor game at Falcon Stadium will take place Monday, between Air Force and Colorado College. Garnhart said the expected size of the crowd is 5,000-7,000.