Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress

By Jerome M. Chertkoff; Russell H. Kushigian | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Who Concert Stampede, December 3, 1979

Riverfront Coliseum (now called the Crown Coliseum) in Cincinnati, Ohio, opened in September 1975. It is a multi-use indoor arena with over 100 entrance doors placed at various locations around the building.

On the evening of December 3, 1979, the popular British rock band The Who was performing at Riverfront Coliseum. Tickets had gone on sale on September 28, and in just an hour and a half, the concert was sold out. A total of 3,578 tickets were for reserved seats. The remainder of the 18,348 tickets were for festival seating, meaning that a ticket merely entitled the ticket holder to entrance into the building, with seating or standing room in front of the stage determined on a first-come, firstserved basis. Consequently, people began to arrive early in the afternoon, long before the doors opened for the 8:00 P.M. performance.

Concern about the use of festival seating at Riverfront Coliseum had been raised several times in the past. A Public Safety Study Team, formed in response to crowd control problems at an Elton John concert in August 1976, reported that the management of Riverfront Coliseum, on its own, was reducing the use of festival seating, and that, therefore, such reductions should be left up to the management. In September 1977, Donald J. Mooney, Jr., of the Cincinnati Human Relations Committee proposed an end to festival seating: "All future concerts should be sold on a reserved seat basis. Reserved seats would discourage the arrival of thousands of fans hours before the concert is scheduled to begin, and before the doors are open. Such congregations, and the resulting drinking and drug abuse, have been the primary causes of disturbances on the plaza level near the coliseum" ( '76 Study Recommended Coliseum Reduce "Festival Seating," 1979, p. A--1). The Cincinnati fire division also had raised objections to festival seating, noting that overcrowding and the blockage of aisles tended to occur with festival seating. However, Safety Director Richard Castelleni maintained in a letter to a private citizen that crowd control problems at Riverfront Coliseum were, and should be, the responsibility of management, not the city: "enforcement of codes and ordinances would and could

-79-

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