Monday, April 14, 2008

Ford Field's Football Format: Forgettable

Good evening. Pun City's working on some exciting (well, to this blog anyway) research for The Rule. More to come on that. Let's just say of the 478 games this blog has looked at, only 18 had the rule broken. That's over 96% successful as yet. Still a good number of games to look at (over 5,000 were played this year), but a good start.

For now, even though this was the last trip Pun City took, this blog figured it'd be cool to share a letter it wrote to the NCAA, commenting on their choice of Ford Field as a venue for the NCAA Tournament, in particular with the "full stadium" layout.

To Whom It May Concern:

This blog recently attended the Men's basketball championships at Ford Field in Detroit (Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games). Having attended hundreds of live sporting events in this blog's life, Pun City can honestly say they were the worst seats this blog has ever had at any event. Pun City was in section 340, row 12. From this view, Pun City could not see the nets. Players were mostly indistinguishable in warmups, and uniform numbers were the only way of separating players once the game began. Referee's whistles and sometimes pep bands were not very audible, if at all. While $53.00 for 3 games seemed like a good deal on the surface, it somehow managed to be a poor value in the end, due to the poor game experience the seat location provides.

Beyond this, vast expanses of unused space on the lower levels existed. This seemed like an unnecessary waste of potential seating space, and seating space with a good view of the action at that.

Ushers repeatedly checked patrons’ tickets when entering my section. This struck Pun City as absurd given that no one would intentionally "sneak into" this lousy section. This blog understands the need to check tickets in most sections (primarily the lower level), but game personnel should be advised to employ common sense with some of the peripheral (read: worst) sections.

Multiple times there were game stoppages due to incorrect scoreboard readings (This blog believes both were around the 10:37 mark in the 2nd half of the Davidson-Kansas game). The problems were dealt with relatively quickly but this blog can't help but speculate these issues were caused by having the court configured as it was. (In the middle of a large space, possibly far from the power sources traditionally used at the facility, then raised up 3 feet above ground level).

The court configuration being above ground level struck Pun City as odd and unnecessarily dangerous, as more than one player had to jump off the high platform while chasing a loose ball. This blog's understanding is that the court was raised to improve sightlines, which is a good idea, but Pun City doesn't think that player safety should be compromised for this reason. On a personal note, from section 340, another 3 feet further from the action would not have made a difference. Having the coach on the same level as the players, as would be the case at all other Div. I venues except Minnesota and Vanderbilt, probably would have proven to be a more comfortable setup for the players and coaches also.

As per usual, event shirts were overpriced ($25.00 for a t-shirt), but in this blog's opinion there weren't even any good designs this year for the "all logo" varieties. Each shirt showed the Final Four logo and had some type of San Antonio theme. Pun City understands that the Final Four is often the event most people associate with NCAA basketball, however in this blog's opinion the regionals should have their own identity and not have to include Final Four images to hold up. At the very least, this blog would like the option of a more "generic" shirt that does not mention Final Four, much less has San Antonio imagery rammed down your throat when you're in Detroit, a city with its own unique identity. Pun City knows the teams are not decided until very close to the game date, but the site is chosen well in advance and there is such a large scale of shirts being made that this blog doesn't believe splitting into 4 different "backgrounds" on the shirt is too much to ask for each regional site to have its own graphic identity. Everyone knows the goal is the Final Four, if we want a Final Four shirt we can get that separately. (Or continue producing regional shirts with Final Four logos on them, but give the option of an event-specific shirt also, I would imagine the Detroit shirt would sell better than the San Antonio one).

That said, the individual team shirts (i.e. "Davidson Sweet 16") were well-designed and if this blog were in the market for one of those, it would not have had an objection purchasing one.

Pun City would highly recommend not using a configuration where the entire football stadium is used in the future. This blog's experiences at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis have been much more positive than the Detroit "full stadium" setup. As this blog is sure you are aware, the RCA Dome used bleachers and a divider to maximize one half of the football stadium instead of miscasting an entire football stadium as a basketball venue. Final Four patrons should not be subjected to such poor sightlines next year, especially since this blog believes they will undoubtedly pay more than Pun City did for my seats this year.

Another suggestion this blog would have is to show more consistent updates of other games being played. This is not a problem unique to Ford Field. At every National Championship event Pun City has attended (5 to date), fans are only able to see score updates when there is a break in the action. This blog believes that in venues like Ford Field and the RCA Dome, this is due to the lack of “auxiliary scoreboards” given the football configuration. In cases like these, Pun City would recommend specifying requirement of applicant stadiums with more flexible scoreboards (where they would be able to show necessary game information plus out-of-town scores), or using some of the back rows of seating to house temporary out-of-town scoreboards. Stadiums like the Bradley Center and the Palace at Auburn Hills either choose not to show out-of-town scores or are instructed not to, and Pun City feels this is a mistake. While the focus of event attendees is on the game in front of them, this blog would think almost everyone there wants to know what is going on in other games, and not just twice a half. While Pun City doesn’t know that this is an official policy, if it is, this blog has a hard time understanding the logic behind it.

Currently the only halftime entertainment at NCAA championship games is that provided by the cheerleaders, spirit squads, and bands of each school. This is good entertainment but Pun City believes there should also be some sort of promotional contest as well. The intermission gets to be pretty long and there is a lot of unused time where patrons have nothing to turn their attention to.

The security entering the venue was well-organized and this blog did feel safe at the venue, which was no small task given the neighborhood where the event was held. Concessions were bland and overpriced, but Pun City doesn’t think this was anything different than one could expect at any other venue (although the US Cellular Arena – a host for previous women’s championship events, and Kohl Center – host for previous men’s events have very good concessions). Elevator operators and workers at the fan assistance center were very nice. Pun City thought the facility did a nice job of getting all of their advertisements covered up for the game so that the NCAA and the game were showcased.

This blog will continue attending NCAA championship events but it looks forward to much better experiences in the future, and this blog would hope that you decide against continuing to use the “full football stadium” layouts. Feel free to contact Pun City if you have any questions.

Thank you for your time,

Pun City

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