University of Kansas athletic officials say they will consider changing entry procedures for the Late Night in the Phog basketball event after complaints about a lack of crowd control last Friday. (Photo courtesy: Kierstyn Cox)
LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV/AP) -
University of Kansas athletic officials say they will consider changing entry procedures for the Late Night in the Phog basketball event after complaints about a lack of crowd control last Friday.
One option under consideration is charging an admission fee. The event started more than 20 years ago and has grown significantly. Celebrities, skits and videos are featured along with a before-now free admission chance to see the Jayhawks in a town where regular season tickets are hard to snag. KU alum Rob Riggle, an actor and comedian, attended the event and was featured as part of one skit.
Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the athletics department plans to discuss possible changes for controlling crowds as they wait for entrance into the free event, which marks the beginning of the men's basketball season. Fans typically line up for hours to get into Allen Fieldhouse.
Because of storms in the area Friday night, plans to offer an outdoor overflow viewing area at Hoglund Park were canceled at 9 a.m. Friday. The fieldhouse holds an estimated 16,300 and at least 20,000 sought to get in.
This year's Late Night event included the introduction of Andrew Wiggins, the nation's top basketball recruit. Many fans predict this is a Final Four team.
"What we will do is meet and discuss all of our procedures from communication, from security even to the point of whether this should remain a general admission non-ticket event," Marchiony said.
Fans complained about people frequently cutting in line and a mob rushing the entrance when the doors opened Friday. Between 3,000 and 5,000 fans were turned away. Others reported fights broke out and that the university wasn't providing security or crowd control.
"We don't want to change the spirit and the atmosphere of what Late Night has been, but we do have to consider fans' behavior and safety and the general fan experience," Marchiony said.
Traci and Dwight Bennett came from Derby on Friday to meet their daughter, Amber Hess, and had a spot in line at around 11:45 a.m., Traci Bennett said.
"Absolutely no one was watching from the university for any crowd control," Bennett said. "We didn't see any security outside and nobody made sure people stayed in line."
At one point people who appeared to be students began filing in front of her family, "sometimes 20 to 30 at a time," she said.
One woman described someone suffering a broke arm and bloody nose after they were trampled in the melee. Another woman said a loved one had a vehicle vandalized. Some described waiting 6-plus hours to get in and not making it inside.
Mike Andress and his 12-year-old son, Charlie, came from Philadelphia to see the Jayhawks. They made it in, but not without some scary moments.
"Let me tell you, these people coming down the hill, they were just running out of control," he said, adding that he feared his son would be hurt. "We got out of the way. We actually stood under a tree while they stampeded by. It was chaos."
Brandon Meyers also made it in, but not without some complications. He described it as a "shoving match, free fall."
"Everyone was looking to get into only a handful of doors," Meyers said.
Emily Murphy said on KCTV5's Facebook page that she got in and didn't notice any problems. However, she did say more people were lined up than in previous years.
Keriann Battaglia said she lined up at noon and wasn't able to get in.
"Then I had to wait for another hour and half (since they closed the doors on us and made us believe they were going to open them again) just for someone to tell us that the fieldhouse was at capacity. I was very, very disappointed," she wrote. "I will admit- all the people that rushed the gates and trampled people were acting like Missouri fans- I'm embarrassed for them. C'mon Jayhawks! Get it together."
Renee Cosby had VIP tickets and got in. She said some doors opened sooner than others, leading to chaos.
"But to be honest, what did they expect?! There were a TON of people there," she wrote. "You were risking not being able to get in considering the capacity."
Mike Meiss wrote that an announcement was never made that the fieldhouse was full.
I have gone to 10 different Late Nights, starting with Coach Roy's first one and have never seen this kind of thing happen before," he wrote.
His complaint was common with numerous long-time attendees who said this was the most disorganized and poorly handled one.
Some fans suggested a lottery system for getting tickets.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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