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    CHRONO SPORTS

  • Monday, July 17, 2000

    Fans fumin' over

    'It's just pathetic'

    By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

     What's one block long, moves an inch at a time, wears a nasty frown and carries a fist full of money?

     The walk-up crowd for yesterday's soccer game.

     Thanks to woefully understaffed ticket windows, thousands of frustrated fans were stuck in lines outside Commonwealth Stadium and missed the first half of Canada versus Trinidad and Tobago.

     "It's just pathetic,'' said Maria Gerritsen, who'd been standing in line for tickets with her family for nearly half an hour and still had about 250 people in front of her.

     "They obviously weren't prepared for the crowds that were coming. I mean, this is ridiculous! How could they not know this was going to happen?

     THERE'S A LOT OF INTEREST

     "If you pre-sell 18,000 tickets, you should know there's a lot of interest and a lot of people are going to be buying tickets on game day.''

     It seems that Ticketmaster, despite warnings from the soccer community, didn't think there would be much of a walk-up at all. So they only opened one window at each corner of the stadium, resulting in lines of ticket buyers 600 and 700 people deep.

     "We even offered the ticket taker $150 and he wouldn't take it,'' said Lydia Gerritsen. "We're thinking about going home if it's going to take another half hour to get in. We've already missed half the game.''

     CAUGHT OFF GUARD

     Gary Sampley, president of the Alberta Soccer Association, says everyone was simply caught off guard by the last-minute rush.

     "We just got hit with a huge walk-up,'' said Sampley. "It was phenomenal. We haven't had a walk-up like this since the Brazil game in 1994, but (Ticketmaster)staffed it for a typical Eskimo or soccer game.''

     At Eskimo games the majority of seats are pre-sold - either to season ticket holders or people who bought them days in advance.

     Yesterday, however, there was a last-minute rush. Some 6,000 fans decided to buy their ducats on game day and wound up in a single-file log-jam.

     "They're clearing the last of the people through as we speak,'' said Sampley, moments before the start of the second half.

     This game wasn't supposed to be a particularly big draw, and threatening weather was supposed to dampen enthusiasm even further, but they wound up with 25,208, the third-largest crowd to ever watch soccer in Edmonton.

     "We didn't see it coming because of the number of pre-sold tickets (19,663),'' said Sampley, who expected the walk-up would be a couple thousand, comparable with games against Australia in 1996 and 1993, which had crowds of over 20,000 and no ticket problems.

     "Ticketmaster schedules the staff, and their experience in the past has been bang on. But the walk-up for this game far exceeded those two games.

     "When it reached a point where we were 20 minutes into the game we put all the tickets on sale at one price to try and clear the lines quickly and it seemed to work.

     "Unfortunately some people missed the first half. It was a learning experience for everybody.''



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