After getting stuck in an epic traffic jam Thursday night outside the Smoothie King Center, the Saints Cam Jordan defensive end rushed to the nearest entrance.
It was 9 p.m., one hour after the scheduled start time for the sold-out comedy concert presented by Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan.
Over 17,000 tickets were sold, a record for a single event at the Smoothie King Center. With so many people trying to access the arena, delays were to be expected.
But the special circumstances of this show, coupled with the huge crowd, caused many frustrated fans to miss some performances.
Jordan found himself blocked at the entrance to the arena, and not by an opposing attacking tackle. Because Chappelle does not allow cell phones at his concerts, customers were required to have paper tickets.
When tickets were first purchased through Ticketmaster, buyers were made aware of the requirement for a paper ticket. Reminder emails were also sent out by Ticketmaster, and the arena posted reminders on its website and social media accounts.
But buyers who purchased tickets through third-party vendors such as Stubhub, VividSeats and Seatgeek would not have received Ticketmaster reminders directly. Others, more used to the convenience of mobile tickets on their phones, forgot to print them or didn’t think it was necessary.
Jordan, like thousands of other fans who had previously sat in traffic outside the arena, was directed to the box office to get his tickets printed.
Fans who purchased tickets from third-party vendors then received another nasty surprise – the box office was unable to reprint their tickets.
It was, said Dave Chappelle at the start of his Thursday set, a âhistoric nightâ in New Orleans: âIn the middle of my cancellation, we broke upâ¦
The ticket office only has records of the Ticketmaster account used for the original purchase of the ticket. Once this ticket is sold, the name on the account no longer matches. Reprinting it would potentially result in a fraudulent ticket.
Through a spokesperson, Zane Collings, managing director of ASM New Orleans, the company that runs the arena, said: âIf the tickets were purchased through a third party, we are not able to search for their purchase on our Ticketmaster system by matching their name and therefore (we are) unable to print their tickets because their name does not match that of the ticket purchaser. “
So those fans had to go elsewhere – some have said on social media that they’ve gone to a downtown FedEx office – to get their tickets printed. By the time they returned to the arena, the show was well under way.
Headliners Chappelle and Rogan were preceded by three opening acts: Jeff Ross, Donnell Rawlings and Tom Segura. Rogan took the stage at 9.45 p.m. Even then, some fans still had failed to get in.
The popularity of the show, which was produced by Live Nation, worked against it.
Since Chappelle and Rogan use a small square stage located in the middle of the arena floor, tickets can be sold around the upper and lower bowl set, as well as on the floor. So they could sell a lot more tickets than a typical concert where the stage blocks one end of the arena bowl.
All of those tickets equate to a lot of cars trying to squeeze through the two-lane bottleneck between the arena and the Caesars Superdome parking lots.
Some drivers spent an hour driving the four blocks from the Poydras Street exit ramp from the Pontchartrain Freeway to the parking lots.
These garages, like concession areas, no longer accept cash. That part seemed to work well, Collings said.
âWe don’t think the cashless payment in garages caused any delays. It’s a quick way to get people into parking garages, even with a sold-out crowd and the transportation challenges that come with a show of this size.
When Billy Joel performed in front of around 16,000 fans at the Smoothie King Center in November 2017 – another of the biggest crowds in the arena – traffic jams and delays at security checkpoints resulted.
But Joel didn’t care about cell phones.
Comedians often ban cell phones so that fans don’t record and share the joke videos. And at a show where listening to a spoken voice is the primary experience, phones can be a distraction for performers and other audience members.
Fans arriving for the Chappelle / Rogan show were required to secure their phones and smartwatches in locked Yondr pouches, which would not be unlocked until after the show.
When fans can’t have their phones inside, they can’t access their tickets on those phones. Which means they don’t have their seat information to show to ushers in case they can’t find their seat or have a dispute with someone sitting in the wrong seat.
Theoretically, having a paper ticket would solve this problem.
But the large number of fans who did not print their tickets in advance caused a whole different set of problems.
And contrary to the purpose of the concert, the fans did not find it funny.