Besides the on-field problems the 1-4 Carolina Panthers have had, some of their fans have also had trouble getting into their seats for kickoff. It has not been uncommon so far this season for Bank of America Stadium to have 10,000-20,000 empty seats when the game begins, only to have most of those seats filled in by the time the first quarter ends.
I received the following email from a reader in Charlotte named Keith regarding the Panthers’ last home game against Seattle, which kicked off at 4:05 p.m. on Oct.7th.
“The security to get in the stadium is horrible,” wrote Keith, who did not want his last name published. “It took my wife and I 30 minutes to get through the North Gate at 3:35 p.m. We missed the opening kickoff. This is why the crowd is so late arriving. The staff working the gate acted if they were getting paid by the hour. No sense of urgency at all and in fact I saw three or four yellow-jacket folks standing around talking. I can tell you that I will not go through that again.”
The Panthers acknowledge the new NFL-mandated security policies -- which include every fan being screened by a handheld metal-detecting wand and/or a pat-down -- have slowed things down. The team now recommends that any fans going to the 1 p.m. home game Sunday vs. Dallas arrive 30 minutes earlier to the stadium than they normally would (this replaces the team's previous recommendation to arrive 15 minutes earlier).
“We understand the writer’s frustration,” said Charlie Dayton, a Panther spokesman.
Gates will open at 11 a.m. Sunday, two hours before kickoff. But if tradition holds, the majority of the crowd will attempt to enter the stadium in the final 30 minutes before kickoff and mostly through the North gate.
“Overall, it is a late-arriving crowd, with nearly 70 percent of the crowd still coming in the last half hour,” Dayton said. “If we can lower that percentage during the last half hour, it should improve the process. Until 12 p.m., there are not any lines.”
So consider this your public-service announcement. If you really want to see the opening kickoff, you need to get to the stadium earlier than you think you should.
Also, if you have a comment about an experience you've had this season while attempting to get into a Panther game -- either positive or negative -- please post it below.