BRISTOL (WJHL) – People have reached out to our newsroom to say it was a mess trying to get into the biggest college football game in history last Saturday.
Some have even gone as far as to say they were scared standing in line at Bristol Motor Speedway attempting to get through the gates.
While the head of BMS acknowledges some gates got hit pretty hard on Saturday, he said his staff responded appropriately and at no point did they think anyone’s safety was in jeopardy.
Still, some fans were concerned enough to say that they would never attend a game like that again unless something changes.
“I’m reluctant to talk because people have said don’t be such a girl scout, things turned out fine,” Kathryn Dorton said.
But Dorton felt like it was too important to just stay silent.
Dorton admits she’s not a huge football fan, but went with her husband to the Battle at Bristol last weekend and enjoyed part of it.
“I really enjoyed the display of patriotism,” she said.
But it was a different story before the game.
“It was basically a perfect storm waiting to happen,” Dorton said.
She said it all started when they were dropped off at BMS around 5 p.m., where she said they immediately made their way to their seats.
Dorton said they pushed their way through crowds to get to the entrance line, which is where they got stuck and tensions rose.
“I was frightened,” Dorton said. “People, thinking they were funny I believe, started chanting ‘let’s rush the gate, let’s rush the gate.'”
Dorton added that “several times I felt like I was going to faint. And the first time, I looked down and I thought if I go down I’m not going to get back up again.”
Around 8 p.m., Dorton said the line abruptly started moving.
“Not one bag checked. Not one ticket was checked and there wasn’t even security there looking at us or monitoring us,” she said.
And she wasn’t the only one that noticed.
“They did not check my bag,” Courtney Kliman said. “They didn’t check anybody’s belongings around me.”
Bristol Motor Speedway Executive VP and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said “safety is always No. 1 in everything we do.”
Caldwell said they opened gates four and a half hours before the start of the game, but said there was a rush shortly before it started.
“Our team responded appropriately and got them in as quickly and safely as possible,” Caldwell said.
He said he’s not aware of any major issues, but did say at one point crews stopped scanning tickets and said people still had to show them.
Dorton’s account of the event was different.
“It took about that long for those thousands of people to get through those gates and get in, so it was impossible,” she said.
An experience so frightening, Dorton said she’ll probably never go to one of this magnitude again.
Others have said they didn’t have any problems getting into BMS.
BMS officials said security measures will be in place for this weekend’s Bucs at Bristol football game and said crews will make sure crowds are more evenly dispersed at entrance gates.
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