Elton John fans line up at Wings Stadium, Tickets scarce online by 10am
Elton John concert in Kalamazoo sells out in 20 minutes;
hundreds lined up outside Wings Stadium for hours (with photo gallery)
Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 2:12 PM Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012, 2:57 PM
KALAMAZOO — Kim Powell was the equivalent of a lottery winner Saturday morning.
Her prize was being the first to purchase tickets to Elton John's March 21 concert at Wings Stadium, where the high-in-demand commodities went on sale at 10 a.m.
The 54-year-old Three Rivers resident, bundled in multiple layers of clothes, originally showed up at 5 p.m. Friday to begin her wait, but was told by security that waiting in line would not begin until 2 a.m.
"I came back about 1 a.m. and just sort of mixed in with the crowd that was leaving (a performance Friday night at the stadium)," she said. "Nobody asked me what I was doing so I just stayed put and wound up being first."
In hindsight, Powell's strategy paid dividends, as the majority of the people who showed up later in the morning — Wings Stadium opened its doors to the lobby at 6:30 a.m. — left empty-handed; the show sold out in 20 minutes. A crowd of more than 500 people filled the lobby area by the time tickets went on sale.
Andrea Pluta, Wings Stadium events coordinator, said about 600 of theshow's 6,000 tickets were sold at the box office. The rest were purchased either over the phone, online or at other Ticketmaster locations.
The few lucky ones at Wings Stadium included a trio behind Powell. Sonja Smith and Tim Koquom, both of Battle Creek, and Mark Fritts, of Wyoming, brought folding chairs and were bundled in layers as they started their wait around 1:30 a.m.
Fritts said the long, overnight wait allowed him to grab front-row seats when John played at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids about a decade ago.
Smith, meanwhile, expressed thanks that a 24-hour Speedway gas station and an all-night McDonald's were walking distance from Wings Stadium.
Likely the youngest on hand, a trio of co-workers was next in line. Megan Boyle, 20; Hilary Solleveld, 21; and Kaila Hull, 20; said they owe it to their moms for being Elton John fans.
"We grew up listening to mom play Elton John records and (audio cassettes), so we know a lot of his music," said Solleveld, a recent WMU graduate. She and Boyle, a Kalamazoo Valley Community College student, agreed "Bennie and the Jets" will be the highlight of next month's show.
Hull, a Jackson-area native and KVCC student, said "Tiny Dancer" is her favorite track from the 64-year-old entertainer.
The three crammed into a two-person tent and benefited from a portable space heater while they waited outside. They said the 14th-row tickets they eventually secured were worth the wait.
Kim Wilcox, of Vicksburg, said he learned from an experience he'll never forget to not pass up the opportunity to see a legend.
Wilcox, 58, said he declined a friend's offer to see Elvis Presely in Indianapolis back in June 1977. The performance, of course, proved to be the King's last concert.
"I didn't want to tell people I blew a chance to see Elvis and then Elton John 35 years later," Wilcox said, noting he hasn't been to a concert since 1976, when Nazareth, Heart and Ted Nugent toured together and made a stop in the area. "This is a big deal and for me to be here, it's not just any musician I'd do this for."
Wilcox arrived about 2 a.m. and passed the time talking to the people in line behind him, Tim Lucas, 42, of Battle Creek, and Dan Klein, 51, of Coopersville.
Klein may have cemented the award for "Husband of the Year," as he isn't planning to attend the concert. He said he offerd to wait and buy the tickets for his wife and her two cousins.
"I got here around 3:45 and I don't mind waiting," he said, adding his wife has seen John more than a dozen times. "Everybody's pretty mellow … we were cold before we came inside but it's been fun."
Despite his intimidating looks and rock-star long-hair, Lucas said he's a fan of John's mellower songs. He said he's looking forward to hearing "Rocket Man," "Candle in the Wind" and "Your Song."
Mike Dee, associate director of engineering, said in his 20 years as a Wings Stadium employee, John is the biggest name he's known to play the venue.
Dee helped with crowd control once the clocks hit 10 a.m. and the roar of cheers and clapping erupted within the lobby.
"Very well-behaved, a good group of people here in line," he said. "I got here at 4:30 and opened the doors at 6:30, and despite the cold and waiting, everybody acted fine."
Pluta, meanwhile, said the show will start promptly at 8 p.m., there's no opening act and there will be no intermission.
"He has a lot of songs to cram into one show," she said. "It'll be interesting to see what he does and doesn't perform."
She said tickets to John's show at a larger venue in Madison, Wisc., – where he performs the night after his Kalamazoo concert – went on sale Friday and sold out almost as quickly as they did Saturday.
System overload for Elton John tickets
More than 400 people lined up at the Grande Prairie Crystal Centre waiting to buy Elton John tickets, Friday, February 10, 2012. AARON HINKS/DAILY HERALD-TRIBUNE/QMI AGENCY
By AARON HINKS Herald-Tribune staff
Posted 19 hours ago
Managers at the City of Grande Prairie Crystal Centre want to extend an apology to those who wanted to purchase Elton John tickets online or over the phone.
With a packed parking lot and more than 1,500 tickets sold through the box office, Crystal Centre Manager Jane Cada-Sharp recognizes that its online and phone system failed them, and failed the city.
Tickets for Elton John’s ‘Greatest Hits Live’ concert went on sale at 10 a.m., Friday.
Throughout the morning, the online ticket purchase service was cutting in and out and the phone lines were tied up until tickets sold out. Cada-Sharp acknowledges that the Crystal Centre could have done more.
"The number of people that wanted to come to the show overwhelmed our system. We're not going to run from that, we're not going to hide from that,” Cada-Sharp said. “That's exactly what happened.”
"For that, we're really sorry and extremely apologetic. I know that it's not going to go far with some people that were not able to buy tickets."
There's no point in deflecting, dodging or dancing around what happened, she said.
"Bottom line is, we were severally overloaded. I don't know the word that is beyond severally, but when you have somewhere of an upwards of a 4,000 peak of inquiries, that's never happened here."
The amount of traffic to the website and phone lines not only knocked out the Crystal Centre website, but it disabled the City of Grande Prairie website. City cell-service towers were completely overloaded; it disabled cell-phone calls throughout the city.
"It's unheard of, unprecedented volumes that we've never had to deal with," she said.
Cada-Sharp added the Crystal Centre did take measures to beef up its system, but it was simply not enough.
The centre had four people on the phones selling tickets and up to five people working the box office.
"Normally, having the number of people we had on the phone today is more than enough, in fact it's overkill. But today, it wasn't," she said.
The centre also beefed up its Internet capabilities to withstand more traffic, she commented.
"Were we expecting a ton of traffic? Absolutely," she added. "Did we expect it to take out our ticketing and the City of Grande Prairie website and mess around with cell service? No."
A lot of questions surfaced on social media websites asking why the city didn't use a major ticket-selling provider, such as Ticketmaster.
The Crystal Centre has an agreement with the ticket-service provider Audience View.
Cada-Sharp says she doesn't want to put the blame on them, but nobody was prepared for the amount of people that wanted to see The Rocket Man.
"We had a dedicated person from our ticket-service provider in Toronto keeping an eye on us. We had the entire IT staff today working at this," she said.
"Could we have done more? Obviously. I can't deny that."
Cada-Shape says the online system worked sporadically throughout the morning. She was documenting reports while the online system was working and it was selling hundreds of tickets in a five-minute window before it would crash.
Red Deer is hosting Elton John on April 25. The Red Deer Centrium sold out of Elton John tickets in less than 10 minutes. Red Deer used the provider Ticketmaster to sell its tickets.
"If there hadn’t been an issue, we probably would have been done in likely less than an hour," she said.
Cada-Sharp wishes the system failure had never happened, but it's time to move forward with future planning.
"What are we doing from this point forward? Our IT folks are working very closely with our box office (and) are working very closely with our ticket service provider to get systems in place to make sure that this will never happen again,” she said.
"You never have enough, but we're going to darn-well make sure that we have a zillion times more than what we have now."
On a lighter side, Cada-Sharp is excited for Elton to make his stop in Swan City.
"We have a sold out show. Elton John is coming to Grande Prairie and I'm not letting anyone take that away from this community,” she said.
In approximately four hours, the Crystal Centre sold a total of 3,936 tickets. A total of 1,527 tickets were sold at the box office, 1,422 tickets were sold over the Internet and 987 tickets were sold over the phone.
Elton John will play his solo concert in the Crystal Centre on April 26.
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