By Cara Winkley
When the doors shut, I just kept thinking “What is going on and what are they doing?” We were packed like sardines outside the door waiting for them to open again.
Caycee Hatchette, a University of Kansas freshman from Lee Summit, got in line for Late Night around 11 a.m. Friday morning. She said there were about 200 people in line in front of her.
“The atmosphere at the beginning was actually fun. We talked to the people around us and had a good time – until the doors were opened,” Hatchette said.
Allen Fieldhouse has a capacity of 16,300 and some students guesstimate they saw almost 25,000 people waiting in line to get into the Fieldhouse on Friday afternoon. As the doors opened that night, students in the back of the line rushed forward cutting in front of people waiting in line for hours, and ultimately taking their spot in the Fieldhouse.
Eric Turek, a University junior from California, was one of those students. Turek got to the Fieldhouse a little before 3 p.m. His friends arrived shortly before 5 p.m.
The doors to Allen Filedhouse were scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m. A few minutes before the doors opened Turek said he saw about 30 people begin to race toward the door. They were in a bird-like formation similar to what you would see in the sky. People standing at the back saw this and began to copy. Soon hundreds were all rushing toward the doors cutting people in front of them.
“A rush surged through me, and I realized that if I didn’t run, I wouldn’t have made it,” Turek said.
A University Athletics staff member describes the experience from the inside as a scary bullrush of people. He said the University had cattle guards to direct the lines, but people jumped or toppled them to get inside.
Small numbers of tickets to Late Night were sold for reserved sections, but the majority of the tickets were given out at the doors as people entered. An exact number of 16,300 tickets including reserved tickets were to be given out in order to control capacity. However, many people who rushed in pushed University staff out of the way limiting their ability to know how many people came inside.
“It was chaos,” said a University Athletics staff member. “We had to close the doors to get a handle on everything and reposition staff.”
Abbey Johnson, a senior from Vermont, was one of the thousands who was still waiting in line when the doors shut. She describes the crowd around her as angry, restless and upset. The line was more like a mob of people shoved up against each other back to front. She said she was standing next to a family with small children who had waited in line all day and didn’t want to leave in the small chance they might get let in.
After waiting for 30 to 45 minutes after the doors closed, students were alerted not by KU Athletics staff, but by a tweet made by the official KU Athletics Twitter account.
“A tweet saying sorry does absolutely nothing for me. I’m a student who pays thousands of dollars for out-of-state tuition, and I deserved to be one of the 16,300 fans in Allen Fieldhouse that night,” Hatchette said. “I’m disappointed in their lack of organization and their incompetence to do anything to stop the fans that rushed in. They have ruined that experience for me and for that, I don’t even want to go to late night in the future.”