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Volume 25 No. 29
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Falcons Execs Dish On Fan Delays At CFP Caused By Trump Visit

Plenty went wrong on Monday night at the CFP title game, with wait times to get into Mercedes-Benz Stadium as long as 2 1/2 hours. That was a huge disappointment for Falcons’ management, which sets a goal of moving fans through the line and into the stadium in five minutes. “We pride ourselves on that design; we pride ourselves on understanding how to get people in the building,” Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay said. “Then we have that experience.”

Falcons Senior VP/Fan Experience Mike Gomes said fan ingress was faster for the Falcons this season than any other NFL club. With the SEC Championship game, the time it took to enter was six minutes. But with President Trump visiting, the Falcons and the CFP encountered challenges that they could not overcome.

The primary issue was Gate 1, which is where most of the fans enter the stadium for other events. But with Trump using that gate to enter the CFP title game, only 9,391 fans came through Gate 1, compared to 23,355 for the SEC Championship, the Falcons said. Almost 14,000 fans had to move, McKay said, “and we’re not happy about that.” Gomes added, “There’s a delicate balance between fan experience and security. When Secret Service or TSA takes over your gates, that balance is gone.”

McKay and Gomes were in the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily offices Friday and discussed how they tried to adjust throughout the period from 5:00pm ET, when gates opened and the logjam began, until kickoff. McKay was in the stadium’s control center with CFP officials and Secret Service, but largely the stadium’s leadership was operating in the dark in terms of preparing for Trump’s visit.

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