It’s been a week since my beloved Irish were convincingly thwarted in their effort to win their first college football national championship since the Reagan administration, so I feel I have sufficiently mourned their loss and can now begin reflecting back on my experiences as a tailgating patron in Miami.
I indicated in a prior post that I would be making my way south to Miami for the game (tickets be damned) but procuring parking at the stadium was going to become a problem. There were actually multiple problems with logistics, planning, and service during the day in addition to parking.
Because of the late arrival of the email from the Orange Bowl Committee with regard to parking passes and cash parking lots, all of the cars being forced to turn around and park elsewhere was going to be a logistical nightmare. However, in addition to that, the Orange Bowl Committee was underprepared for the influx of cars looking to arrive early. Traffic cones were powerless against cars pulling U-turns in the road to enter the parking lot (as seen above). The website and arrival routes featured limited communication far away from the stadium until cars got very close. We in my car just made our best guess as to how to arrive, and we apparently were driving in the opposite direction we needed to be.
As expected, the parking crew was forced to turn around cars that lacked parking passes. This, also expected, caused significant delays in arrivals and wasted time in waiting in lines. Hardly error-proofed.
This was at 1:00 p.m., or a little after the gates opened. I can hardly imagine this disaster in the later hours of the afternoon.
The second major logistical issue was with the porta-potties, or lack thereof. It’s a common complaint at sporting events, sure, but I believe the potty-to-patron ratio was excessively low. From my parking spot near the far end of the row in East 33, it appeared there was one toilet unit for every four rows of cars (30-40 cars in each row), and the lines to use them were insane. (Sorry, no precise data to share.) It was not only inconvenient, but made the experience very uncomfortable.
Another big issue was the lack of trash receptacles. As few porta-potties as were supplied, there were even fewer trash cans – I saw exactly zero in the tailgate lots. As one walked closer to the stadium there were quite a few but the lack of trash containers at the end of rows allowed patrons to just let junk pile up behind their cars as they left it upon leaving the lots.
The last and certainly the biggest problem at Sun Life Stadium was the lack of cell phone service in the area. Smartphones were unable to receive or transmit data frequently because of overloaded cell circuits.
Why is this such a problem? Cell phones that unsuccessfully search for digital signals draw a lot of power, which drains batteries.
Many major sports venues have issues with overloaded cell circuits and overloaded service towers because of the high density of service consumers in a small place, so this isn’t an unusual occurrence. The difference here is that the BCS National Championship is a very high-profile event, and the inability to communicate with family and friends either at the venue or back home created the biggest inconvenience. It’s easy to say that we as a society are so beholden to our phones and we should not use such technology as a crutch, but the fact remains that we’ve built our lives around its conveniences since the technology has opened so many different doors and opportunities.
A big difference here is that there were probably 125-150K patrons in this very small part of Miami. As expensive as it is to attend such a high-profile event, the failure to provide expected conveniences to patrons leaves a very bad taste in their (our) collective mouths.
Let’s do a quick five-whys analysis.
Why is my cell phone battery dead? It consumed all of its energy capacity.
Why did it consume all of its energy capacity? It was searching for a digital cell signal, and searching consumes energy.
Why was it searching for a digital cell signal? Normally easy to find, it was unable to find one.
Why was it unable to find one? Normal supply of digital signals were far lower than actual signal demand.
Why was supply of signals lower than signal demand?
I think the answer to that question could be that the service providers didn’t think it to be worthwhile to provide extra supply for a singular event like this.
Ironically, Verizon still took the time to advertise services it was unable to demonstrate.
However, because this type of issue has been around for a few years and because of the continued growth of smartphone use, wouldn’t venues and cell service providers work together to combat this problem? Are there temporary solutions to create temporary signals so that fluctuations in demand can be counteracted?
Worse yet…what if the lack of signal (or even dead cell batteries) caused a failure to communicate emergencies in the parking lot? Could the Orange Bowl or service providers be sued for their inability to provide a service expected and purchased? I presume there is no guarantee of 100% service written into cell phone contracts, but I think sports venues run a serious risk by not accounting for usage density like this.
What some venues do (for example, Safeco Field in Seattle and AT&T Park in San Francisco) is offer free wi-fi to ticketholders. This is a step in the right direction.