LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Louisville's football team won on the field Saturday night in its home opener, but lost big in the stands at Cardinal Stadium.
Even with the victory, many of the 39,673 fans who watched the Cardinals defeat Eastern Kentucky 30-3 went home in a sour mood after encountering nightmarish problems with long lines and poor service at entry gates and concession stands, where photos and video showed dozens in crowded lines.
And the fans made their anger and frustration known in social media posts and elsewhere over the weekend, prompting a letter of apology to season ticket holders from UofL athletics director Vince Tyra, who listed steps his department is taking to reduce lines and mitigate other problems.
There are no attendance restrictions this season after attendance was limited to 12,000 last year in the 60,800-seat stadium. Many fans were threatening to boycott Friday's home game against Central Florida.
The snafus resulted in yet another embarrassment for the UofL athletics department, which has had one mess after another in its men's basketball program.
Here is a sampling from callers to Drew Deener's sports talk show on ESPN Radio in Louisville:
"There was no soap in one of the dispensers," one fan said. "There were no paper towels in one of the dispensers. I mean, it was just disgusting."
A second caller: "I never call in and complain about concessions and what-not. Today is the day."
"Hopefully, things will be better on Friday," a third said. "If they're not, I think a lot of us will walk."
Deener joined in the criticism, telling his listeners, "Everybody's experiencing the shortage of workers, but that's not going to be an excuse for people. They will just choose not to go."
Angry comments on social media included these:
"The game day experience was horrendous. I literally do not feel I have a reason at all to come back Friday."
"To many (complaints) to name. List is long. Fan experience (Saturday) speaks to a lot of it. Frustrating as a fan."
"Man, what a shame the game day operations were at Cardinal Stadium! Are we really a cut-rate program these days that can't open all concession stands and properly staff them? Lines that took people 30+ mins for water! Sold out of food options! Restroom doors blocked!"
"Legend has it there's still people waiting in line for a beer at Cardinal Stadium."
In his emailed letter to the fans, Tyra wrote in part:
"Home games are exactly that, a representation of our house, and maintaining that sense of pride in how we host our fans and our guests is a value we take to heart. . .Simply put, last night did not meet your standard of expectation, and certainly did not meet ours. . .We are committed to working through these challenges to provide the best experience possible. . ."
Tyra noted in a press release Tuesday morning that on a typical game night it takes close to 1,000 subcontractors from a number of partners to staff Cardinal Stadium, and that approximately 400 of the those contracted employees are Centerplate workers focused on food and beverage service. He said only 250 were working Saturday, but that Centerplate had promised to expand its staffing using agencies from nearby cities to augment local staff Friday night.
"They have a right to be upset," Tyra said. "I'm right with them. I'm not very happy today. Not happy with a number of things. And I feel like the fans are obviously going to inherently staple a number of items together. You know, whether it be the way they view the team play, whether it be Dino Gaudio, whether it be fan experience on Saturday, and I know it is frustrating.
"We shouldn't be creating or having other distractions like this. This should be something we should be able to offer and provide as an easy access and a great game day experience, regardless of the outcome on the field."
Included among the adjustments Tyra said UofL will make for the UCF game are:
*Activate 25 in-seat vendors who will accept cash.
*A 40% increase in point-of-sale locations.
*Transition four concession stands to beverage only.
*Activate all concourse water fountains to be open and operational, with cups.
*Additional staff and supervisors provided for training on (ticket) scanners."
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at email@example.com.