ATLANTA - When you have a national sporting event at a brand new stadium that the President of the United States plans to attend, you are bound to see some hiccups.
The Executive Director of the College Football Playoff, Bill Hancock, commended The City of Atlanta for their spirit and welcoming attitude, but also addressed some issues that plagued the National Championship game.
Fans experienced significant delays trying to enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium, many having to wait two and three hours--which meant that many who arrived early still missed part of the first quarter--because of heightened presidential security.
"It's disappointing," Hancock said when asked if it was acceptable that fans were forced to wait for extended times in the cold rain.
"And I'm very sorry that fans were inconvenienced."
“When you have a presidential visit, security trumps everything, so to speak, and we're just very sorry that people were inconvenienced.”
Ticket holders say they understand the need for the Secret Service to increase security, but they say Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport moves even more people through similar security faster than the stadium could on Monday night. They noted that there were too few metal detectors, and not enough security personnel, for the crowds, and no one in charge organized the crowds into lines, as there are at airports. Instead, crowds packed the building's entrances, then jostled to reach the few metal detectors, often erupting in boos for the lack of organization and long delays.
As far as what is to be done at future events if another public figure, such as the president, decides to attend a college football playoff event, Hancock said, “The public safety people of Atlanta did a great job. We knew several days in advance that the Secret Service was going to be here and they did the very best they could. The building staff did a wonderful job of dealing with a little curve ball that they were thrown. Be ready. Be prepared and just know that security for the president is paramount.”
TIcket holders also said there was not adequate cell phone service at the stadium, and as a result they could not access their electronic tickets on their smart phones, which caused further delays.
“Overall, the mobile ticketing served us well," Hancock said. "We will stick with it. The best thing about mobile ticketing is fraud prevention. So far, we have had much less incidents of counterfeiting. We told the public, before, many times, do not buy a paper ticket. It's not valid but I'm sure some people missed that message. And that's unfortunate, I regret that for the fans."
As far as the expletive that was projected onto the side of Mercedes-Benz Stadium about President Trump, Hancock said he was unaware of the issue.
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Hancock was also aware of the water leak from the ceiling and his "people on the sidelines" were the ones to let him know about the issue.
“But it was very minor and had no effect on the event whatsoever.”
He did end on a positive note and commended Atlanta for their spirit and their can-do attitude for the event.
“The heart of the city, the walkability, the concise nature of our Championship campus, was awesome, but more so, Atlanta brought a spirit, a can-do attitude, a welcoming attitude that we will take with us forever, we'll all remember. They were awesome. We'll be back.”