It was the first time The Swamp had hosted a concert in a quarter-century, and a Saturday night appearance by Garth Brooks gave the University of Florida's football stadium operators all they could handle. The scene served as a reminder that crowd dynamics may vary depending on the type of event taking place in a venue.
According to The Gainesville Sun, many of the country singer's 75,000 fans arrived at the stadium gates at the last minute, creating a bottleneck as they tried to enter The Swamp and packing the concourse like sardines. Fans complained ― and posted video ― of agitated people, and the opening act was delayed 43 minutes.
Athletics officials said they worked closely with Brooks’ team, the university, the city, law enforcement and transportation officials to coordinate the concert’s logistics. Still, much of the planning mirrored that for Gator football game days, when crowds exceeding 80,000 are not uncommon. "Generally speaking, the fans that attend our football games are familiar with their routines of traffic, parking, gate entry and seat locations," said Laird Veatch, executive associate athletic director for internal affairs. "Saturday's concert crowd was understandably different."
A few of the factors that made the concert different than a typical football Saturday included:
- About 95% of the parking was designated west of the stadium. Unlike game days, most concert goers entered through west gates, leaving many of the east gates unused. Some concert goers arrived late to the venue.
- Fans clamored in front of concessions stands and in corridors buying merchandise prior to the concert, which contributed to crowd congestion. Alcohol also was sold in the stadium.
- Concert-goers complained of hourlong waits for a stadium shuttle service that had only three of its typical five locations in operation for the concert, delaying travel time to the venue. Unfamiliarity among concert-goers with additional city transit offerings may have contributed to frustrations, as well.
Brad Barber of the UF police said the department spent weeks planning for the event, but added there's no way to know how a crowd will behave. Police ejected a total of 18 people from the concert — 11 for disorderly conduct, four for intoxication, one for smoking, one for marijuana and one for battery, according to a UF Public Safety news release.
"As we do with all of our events, we have learned from this unique experience and will continue to make efforts to further enhance the fan experience," Veatch told the Sun.