It was exactly thirty years ago today that eleven concertgoers were trampled to death outside of what was then known as Riverfront Coliseum. As rock legends, The Who, began their sound check that evening, thousands of spectators crowded outside, pushed forward mistakenly thinking the concert was starting. Eventually arena officials opened the doors to the swarming crowd, the problem was they had hardly opened any doors at all.
For those of my generation who weren't alive when it happened, it's been something we've always heard about, a local story, a local legend. I never realized the full scope of the tragedy though until yesterday when I was reading the first hand accounts that had been posted on The Cincinnati Enquirer's website. That night, as I attended the Cincinnati Cyclones game, the announced attendance of 1300 spectators was only about 1/12 of the nearly 16,000 who had crammed into the Coliseum to see The Who nearly thirty years before.
The media and press are often credited with using The Who and "Rock & Roll" as a scapegoat for what happened that night. The real culprit, however, was poor planning by the arena's staff. The crowd had tickets for festival seating, general admission that allowed them to sit wherever or to take the floor. First come, first serve. Too few doors were open and a crowd who had been waiting all afternoon wanting to get the best seats, rushed and pushed through the only doors that were open, crushing and killing eleven in the process.
Thirty years later, no memorial to the dead stands on the plaza of the Riverfront Coliseum now known as US Bank Arena, but tonight a makeshift memorial was made and a candle light vigil held.
"Thirty years later and they still have the same sized doors, have they learned nothing? Shouted Chris Egbers as he lit candles during the vigil. Chris had been there for the concert that night and felt that the arenas staff and infrastructure are still incapable of handling large events. As Tairy Green posted over at CAAST a few weeks ago, the arena staff had trouble handling a large crowd gathered on the concourse for a recent Phish concert. As someone who attends many Cyclones games at the arena every year, I can attest to how poorly the arena supports large crowds. Any time a game gets over 7000 in attendance, it gets extremely hard to move around the crowd.
Thirty years later the arena's operations are still criticized for how they handle large events and no memorial stands for the victims on the arena's plaza. I don't think people realize the full scope of the tragedy that occurred.
This is something that needs to be remembered and so far the city and the arena have done very little to remember those eleven people by. Hopefully, that will soon change.
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