2013 BCS National Championship Tailgating in Miami

Posted on January 14, 2013 | in Error-Proofing, Football, Root Cause Analysis, Safety, Sponsorships, Sports, Waiting | by

2013 BCS National Championship Sun Life Stadium Tailgate

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.

2013 BCS National Championship Parking Lot Arrival Lines

Your car driving the wrong direction to enter the parking lots? Ignore the cones and just pull a U-turn.

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.

2013 BCS National Championship Parking Turn Around

No parking pass? Pull in, turn around, and leave.

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.


stadium trash

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.

2013 BCS Championship Verizon Banner 2

Oh the nerve…

2013 BCS Championship Verizon Banner 1

Yes, Verizon, I sure would love to share everything…so why can’t I?

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.

bcs national championship 2013 notre dame alabama

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8 Responses to “2013 BCS National Championship Tailgating in Miami”

  1. Joslin Kies says:

    They bring in temporary cell towers for the Country Concert in Fort Loramie Ohio in July every year. They take up relatively small space and do provide quite good coverage.

    • Chad Walters says:

      How many folks attend Country Concert every year? I, um, can’t say I’ve ever attended. 🙂

      I was pretty sure I had heard of such technology, but wow was it absent last week.

  2. Mark Graban says:

    Here’s a piece on why cell service sucks at games:


    Detroit teams are doing something about it.

    Wireless carriers and Detroit’s four pro sports teams are bolstering technology at the four stadiums to improve the ability of fans to use their phones and tablets during games — which in turn makes it easier for the franchises to offer in-game perks such as concessions and instant replays via fans’ mobile devices.

    The Detroit Pistons added new Verizon Wireless technology to The Palace of Auburn Hills before the current season, and Verizon installed new technology at Ford Field in December to offer free wireless access and improved connectivity for its customers during Detroit Lions games.

    The Detroit Red Wings, who have a deal with AT&T at Joe Louis Arena, are seeking better connectivity while planning for a new arena.

    The Detroit Tigers don’t have public Wi-Fi at Comerica Park, and are in talks with providers for connectivity upgrades, the team said.

    • Chad Walters says:

      With as important a medium for communication as smartphones are becoming, this is a step in the right direction.

  3. Chad, good job with the article on lack of cell reception at the BCS National Championship game. I followed the link from NDNATION.COM, which I lurk on but do not post (because of a lack of a paid e-mail account, which I do not possess and will not just to post on a chat board, but that is an entirely different rant, so i digress…) One complaint on the article, the title kind of misled me into thinking there would be more to the story than, A. problems entering the parking lot, B. problems throwing away trash and tinkling, C. MY FREAKING CELL PHONE WON”T WORK AND I AM GOING TO RANT FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE ARTICLE ABOUT IT!!!!
    I was at the game, and arrived at the tailgate lot around 1:30, right near the 34 west pole. I must say, I agree with all of your points, but I would have thought by the title there might be some relating of many other things. Yes, the trash and port-a-potty situations were deplorable and a borderline health and safety issue. The smell of piss and rubbish in the parking lot leaving the game was nauseating. But, I would like to add some takes from my tailgating experience at Sun Life Stadium…
    First, I thought not only was the entrance into the lots a poorly run cluster f**k, but once in a parking spot the lots were terribly labeled. Though the group I was with had a nice tailgate, I did at one point set out on a walkabout to find other friends tailgating in different locations. If not for an inflatable Frankenstein and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, I would never have found them. (FYI, this was probably around 4 pm, and my Verizion service was great at this time, which helped me find friends. My service started letting me down around dark, and my phone was dead by gametime.) Second, I was astounded by the ratio of Notre Dame to Alabama fans. Granted, I was on the west side of the lot, the same side as the Notre Dame section inside the stadium, but from what I heard the ratio was not much different on the other side. I’d say ND fans outnumbered ‘Bama fans at least 20:1 (my own observation, no hard numbers on that). Along those lines, I was both impressed and surprised by the class shown by (most) of the Alabama fans. I’m sure the numbers game made it easy for them to pipe down and fly right, but in only a few very isolated incidents did I see/ hear ‘Bama fans acting in the stereotypical SEC/redneck/incestuous way I feared I would experience as the norm rather than the exception. Their fans were gracious, respectful, polite, and knowledgeable almost to a man (or woman). Though, I did see the ratio of disparaging t-shirts strongly slanted in ‘Bama’s favor. I saw about 10:1 “Rather Good Than Lucky” t-shirts vs. “Catholics vs. Cousins” t-shirts. But, I just wrote that off as a cultural difference. And, in their defense, they DID just start buying shorts that weren’t fashioned from old blue jeans.
    All in all, a good account of the poor cell phone service, but I would like to read about other fans experiences as a whole on the tailgating front. I follow you on Twitter, and look forward to hearing more about your experiences beyond the cell issue and others experiences as well. Me personally, other than the unfortunate outcome of the game (to put it mildly. Another way to put it would be the ass kicking ‘Bama delivered to the FIghting Irish), the weekend I spent with my father, brother and sister-in-law (all ND alums) will be remembered as one of the greatest weekends of my life. I look forward to repeating the trip many times to come in the near future! Go Irish!

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