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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Horrible day at Elitch Gardens

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had a really icky day at Elitch Gardens for the Big Time Rush concert. Instead of totally rehashing it, I'm just going to post the letter I sent to their management as well as the parent company. Basically, it was a horrible experience, and I do not recommend going to any of their concerts until they improve how they do things.

Dear Elitch Gardens Managers,

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment over the events that happened on the day of the Big Time Rush concert on Sunday, July 31st.

Our family planned ahead, and when we called several days before the event, we were told that people begin lining up as early as 7am, and we were advised that if we wanted tickets, we should get there early. So we did. We arrived at 7:30 am and got in line with a number of other people. We didn't mind, and we hoped it would be a fun experience for our children to make that sacrifice to see their favorite band.

Shortly before the doors opened, the crowd became very pushy. Several of the parents had arguments with newcomers who tried cutting in line. These people were reported to security, who merely shrugged and said there was nothing they could do. The arguments increased, and I was appalled at my children having to witness both the behavior and language. Once the doors opened, there was a mad rush to get in- people cut in line and pushed ahead, including the latecomers who had been fighting with the waiting parents. Several small children were trampled and injured. While none of the injuries appeared to require medical attention, it was frustrating that this happened in front of security, and despite complaints from the parents who had been waiting all morning, nothing was done.

While my own children were unharmed, they were terrified. When we finally got into the park, it was absolute chaos. There were no clear directions, no clear signs, or any indication of how wristbands were distributed. We once again were at the mercy of the pushy crowds who again endangered our children, shoving them, stepping on them, and not caring that there were small children present. One child in this crowd fainted, which I witnessed, and one of the nearby parents said it was the second child so far. No security was present, and as far as any of us could observe, no park staff intervened or offered assistance.

Because the staff were located at random spots handing out wristbands, there was no clear direction on where to go or how to obtain them. Our family ended up literally stuck at the stage with nowhere else to go. We were shoved into a potted tree, and despite my asking the people around us to please be careful, our words were ignored. This happened in full view of staff members, though I realize they were busy handing out wristbands. While there were supposedly rules about each person only getting one wristband, the staff arbitrarily applied that rule- there were young girls next to us already wearing wristbands who would be given several more for their friends (who were not present). When my ten year old managed to get one, and asked for one for her family (who were standing right behind her), she was told no by the same person who had just given a fistful of wristbands to someone already wearing one.

The point is not that we were worried we were not going to get a wristband. One of the people handing out wristbands (a man named Chris, whose name I only remember because the young ladies who kept getting multiple wristbands from him kept flirting with him and calling out his name), reassured the crowd a number of times that everyone present would get a wristband. The problem was not the idea of getting one, but there was no organized method of distributing them. The crowd was pushy, disorganized, and had no concern for the safety of others. There was no security in place to keep anyone safe.

Once we obtained our wristbands, we went to the water park and got settled in. We noticed several people putting aside wristbands for people who would be arriving later. Some of those people didn't arrive until much later in the day. Which was a shame, considering several of our other friends, who arrived at 9:30 were told all the wristbands had been given out. So much for the rule that only one wristband per person would be given out.

The park was crowded, mostly with people who had hoped to get into the concert but arrived too late. Many of them were not aware that all of the wristbands had been given out until after they went to the stadium and asked. The crowds were unbearable, and in many cases, were a safety hazard, particularly in the wave pool and pirate ship pool. There were not enough lifeguards, and again, children were injured. Fortunately, nothing that appeared life threatening, but do children have to go to the hospital for safety to matter? The lines for the ladies' room were never shorter than about 20 people. There were not enough places for people to sit in the water park, and many resorted to stashing their things alongside the pools. Which again, presented a safety hazard for people tripping and injuring themselves. It was clear to many of the people in the water park especially that you were over capacity and had made no arrangements for dealing with this level of crowd. I would like to think that this was due to poor planning, rather than Elitch's caring more about profits than people's safety.

The food services staff was equally unprepared for the crowds. We visited at least 5 different food and beverage vendors throughout the day. Each one of them was out of something. It was very disappointing to not be able to have our first choice of food or drink all day long. One station did not have Dr. Pepper, another did not have hot dogs, one was out of the flavor of Dipping Dots my daughter wanted. We went to one place, and when I ordered a margarita (at 5pm), was told that they hadn't turned on the machine today and if we wanted one, we'd have to go to a place at the other end of the park. The last time we were at the park, we had hot dog and hamburger sliders with different toppings that were delicious. This time, there were no toppings, and the food was overcooked. The staff didn't seem to care, and acted as though it was normal to not have adequate food and beverages. They treated us as though it was an imposition to serve us. When my husband asked for a to go box so we could eat our dinner in line for the concert, we were given a large plastic bag, even though several others at the concert had to go boxes. One employee was observed, while wearing food prep gloves, picking up trash from the floor, then going to prepare food. In another food stand, an employee was trying to manage the crowd (a line of about 15 people) by herself while also having to go to another stand to get a customer a beer. She didn't look old enough to be serving alcohol, and was clearly stressed at having to deal with all of it alone. She did go get the beer, but it was at the expense of all the waiting customers. Based on what my friend observed, several health code violations existed, which didn't seem to be of any consequence to the employees. Our joke for the day became that the only requirement to work in the park was that the person was breathing.

Concert time was the first we saw security, other than when we first entered the park. I was pleased to see them directing people to the end of the line and they had created a makeshift but semi orderly system for getting people into the concert. Staff members were walking along the line to make sure everything was going smoothly and to answer questions. What a difference this would have made had this been in place that morning with park entrance and wristband distribution. We managed to talk to one woman, whose badge indicated she was some sort of marketing manager (I don't remember the name or specific title). My friend, who has an extensive retail event background, asked what the plan was for next time. The woman asked her what she meant. My friend explained about the crowds this morning. The woman's response was that there was nothing they could do.

Sadly, the “there's nothing we can do” response seems to be the way everyone in your park manages things. There was plenty that could have been done in the morning to have prevented the crowd issues- increased security, distinct lines, stanchions, clear directions and instructions, and more employees interacting with the guests. On the rides, there were signs stating that cutting in line would be grounds for ejection from the park and/or revocation of season passes. Surely acting in an unsafe manner, cutting in line, and pushing to get into the park would be grounds for not admitting people.

I hope, as you read this, that you will pass my letter on to other staff and supervisors so that they can make better arrangements for future concerts. Many of the people in the crowd stated their intention to attend the Miranda Cosgrove concert. Will your team be better prepared for that day?

Our family will not be attending the Miranda Cosgrove show, and we are considering not renewing our season passes for next year. I don't feel that entertainment should come at the expense of safety. I'm not willing to be forced to buy overpriced food (since we can't bring our own in) that is prepared without following health code and is not as advertised. It is my sincere hope that you use this as a learning tool and improve upon your service, as there is much room for improvement.


1 comment:

Scot said...

That is a horrible day at the park.