Thursday, January 31, 2008

Washington State Unhappy Over Ticket Allocation

This Mom's Weekend, thousands of students and their parents will have to find something else to do with their Saturday night.

The April 12 Elton John concert sold out in a Beasley Coliseum-record 3 hours and 40 minutes, with students experiencing long lines, computer server crashes and busy signals at TicketsWest call centers. When it was all said and done 10,885 tickets were sold, with 700 distributed to students at Beasley.

With lines wrapping more than halfway around the concourse and frustrations mounting, the scene was more reminiscent of the lead-up to a Saturday night basketball game than a lazy Friday morning on the WSU campus. The difference between this and Cougar basketball, however, was that in the end the majority of the people left dissatisfied.

Chris Concienne, a senior turf management major, was one of those turned away just feet from the ticket window after waiting in line for more than three hours.

"My mom was really looking forward to this," he said. "It's not fair for moms to get shut out."

In the words of Elton John, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

For most Mom's Weekends, Beasley Coliseum and WSU work together to bring in well-known acts, including past performers such as Bill Cosby, Howie Mandel and Wayne Brady.

Leo Udy, director of Beasley Coliseum, said this time all of the decisions were made by Elton John's staff, meaning tickets were available to a worldwide audience, not just a WSU audience.

"Normally when we're running the event we let students buy first and we run everything ourselves," he said. "For this it was an outside promoter with their own system. They're basically just renting Beasley for one night."

Demand was so high that according to TicketsWest, as many as 6,000 people were logged into their website at one point, and Qwest reported that 5,000 calls per minute were running through their circuits.

Many who were able to connect experienced server overload, even after entering their credit card information. One student, senior sport management major Jeff Danner, reported that he reserved tickets online for the fifth row on the floor only to be turned down before confirmation by a busy server.

Even those who were able to get tickets were not entirely pleased with how the whole day was handled.

Kayla Clement, a freshman nutrition major, arrived with three of her friends at 9 a.m., one hour before tickets went on sale. Even though they were only about 75 people from the front, a Beasley official told them they would probably have better luck if they left and went online to buy them. Clement and her friends heeded the advice and went to the Streit-Perham computer lab, where they spent the rest of their morning refreshing their browsers hoping to get lucky. Clement managed to get into the system and buy tickets for her mom, but the rest of her group didn't have the same success.

According to those in line, anyone who arrived before 10:30 a.m. got tickets and everyone else left empty-handed. Much of this was due to the fact that only three of four ticket windows were in operation at the coliseum, and transactions took as long as five minutes to complete.

Mitch Williams and Joel Hingston were among those who got to Beasley early enough to get tickets. Williams, a sophomore finance major, was in the CUE trying to get tickets online but quickly realized that the TicketsWest server was not going to handle the traffic and rushed to Beasley. Hingston, a junior majoring in movement studies, even called his grandmother in Seattle and uncle in California to have them try the online route while he stood in line for three hours.

Hingston echoed the sentiment of many students who felt cheated by the fact that students did not have the first crack at purchasing tickets.

"They should have made all tickets available to WSU students because it's Mom's Weekend," he said. "It's meant for students and their moms, not the general public."

Students wishing to take a more activist stance created a Facebook group titled "This is our Mom's Weekend, So they should be our Tickets!!!!" As of 7 p.m. Sunday, nearly 1,200 members had joined in protest.

Udy was apologetic but made it clear angry students should not direct their blame at Beasley or WSU.

"We didn't have full control of how things worked," he said. "It's too bad more students couldn't have got them."

Though Udy and his staff were not responsible for phone or online ticket distribution, they also weren't ready for the onslaught of students on Friday.

"We've never seen anything like this before," he said. "We anticipated high demand, just not all at the same time. We wish we had more seats to offer."

For those like Concienne without a seat, the alternative is a pricey one.

Online sites like Craigslist and eBay have been flooded with both tickets and ticket requests for the show, with nosebleed seats going for as much as $500 for a pair.

"I'll probably try looking on eBay and see what they have going," Concienne said. "If they're too much it's probably not worth it."


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