The Final Four Brings Madness to Atlanta

By ELIZABETH COPELAND

The Final Four weekend was held in downtown Atlanta and brought with it madness in crowds for basketball, free concerts and other major related events.

Crowds from all over the United States flocked to downtown Atlanta where thousands of events were held for the March Madness’ Final Four basketball games. The Final Four games were held on a Saturday night, and the finals were held the following Monday night.

With any sporting events come other events that lead up to the actual game night. Events were held all over town, including many locations like bars, restaurants, parks and discounted tour sites. One of the most notable events held during the Final Four weekend was the three nights of free concerts.

The concerts started Friday night and were held through Sunday evening. Each night, flocks of people would come out to support the musical artists and bands playing on stage. A wide variety of artists helped attract an array of people from all ages and musical backgrounds.

The event “The Big Dance Concert Series” was sponsored by different companies each night. The NCAA Corporate Champion sponsors were responsible for one night of concerts each. They included AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One.

AT&T sponsored Friday night’s concert events. The bands included Saints of Valory, My Morning Jacket, and premiere band Zac Brown Band.

Saturday night bands included a variety of artists. The Coca-Cola Zero Countdown included Yacht Rock Revue, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ludacris, Flo Rida and Muse. This brought the most diverse crowds as indie band fans, rap and hip-hop fans, and alternative fans stayed all day to position themselves close to the front to enjoy their bands and distance themselves during other bands to enjoy the atmosphere.

“We were shoving people and trying to get as close to the stage as we could for the Muse concert,” concert attendee Theo Hyde said. “There was almost no room to even move!”

Sunday night was the final night of the free concert series and was known as the Capital One Jamfest night. Artists for Sunday included Blind Pilot, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Sting and Dave Matthews Band. It was a more diverse crowd this night as all generations came together for the more modern bands like Blind Pilot and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and the Sting concert held later that night. All generations stayed to enjoy the timeless Dave Matthews Band that was the last band to go onstage.

Power Outage During Muse Concert

There were only a few minor hiccups along the way; a very impressive feat for such a large demand for perfection in the free concerts.

On Saturday night, Muse took the stage to play for their thousands of fans.

“I have always heard Muse on the radio and I have heard they are amazing live, but I didn’t believe it until I saw them perform live,” said Luke Borasare of Midtown Atlanta.

It was not until later in the concert that fans were surprised; not by the performance itself, but with the power outage that occurred during the final moments of the Muse concert. During the middle of a set, the sound system completely shut off. According to reports heard over the fixed PA system at the concert, a shortage in one of the power supplies had occurred. The system automatically cut off, much like it did at the Super Bowl earlier this year.

The concert was back up and ready less than a half hour later and was met with fans who had only become more enthusiastic about the concert. There were no reports of unrest in the crowd during the power outage, which was one of the main concerns for the crowd-control officials, who kept tight control.

Strict Safety Measures in Place

The rules and restrictions that were in place helped keep potentially rowdy crowds controlled, which allowed for an enjoyable atmosphere. Some of those rules, monitored at the points of entry around the park, were: no strollers, chairs, outside food or drinks, or weapons of any kind. There was also a restriction on noisemakers and other potentially harmful and disruptive objects. Concertgoers were searched upon arrival at one of the five entry locations and purses, bags and jackets were checked.

Crowds gathered and were estimated to be over 15,000 during many of the nights of the concerts. Saturday night gates even had to be closed by officials due to maximum capacity limits. Reports show that the maximum capacity was reached as people came in during the first sets of the Sting concert. People tried leaving at various locations during the middle of the Dave Matthews concert, but were not being let out; something that could have been dangerous in the event of a crisis. Luckily, there were no major issues during the weekend events.

With the massive amounts of people, safety policies were carefully enforced and transportation options were increased.

According to the Big Dance Concert webpage, MARTA increased its time between trains. This was to help with the massive amounts of people not only attending the concerts, but also the 50,000 people who were in the area and at the basketball games.

People used MARTA to get back and forth from their hotels, many of which were outside the city limits due to the number of sold out hotels within the city.

Despite MARTA’s best efforts to increase transportation services, people still waited hours in the tunnels to get onto a train.

Hyde, who lives in midtown, took the MARTA trains in the massive group of visitors and residents.

“If I had the choice to come down here again with this amount of people… I don’t think I would ever do it again,” Hyde said.

He also said that he does not regret taking MARTA, because parking would have been too difficult.

People did try their hand at parking in one of the nearby public parking lots, but paid a good penny to do so. Not only did drivers fight unbelievable amounts of traffic, detours, and closed streets, they also battled huge crowds of pedestrians. After they were able to get through those inconveniences, drivers had to find an open lot that was within walking distance from the concert area. The closer the lot, the more expensive the parking fees were. Within walking distance of the park, parking spots were available from $25 to $30 for the night. Compared to the MARTA Breeze Card, this was up to $20 more expensive and much more of an inconvenience.

While some had their doubts about fighting the downtown crowds, many were very excited to attend the Big Dance concert series.

“I had a great time. I’d fight the crowds again to see other free concerts,” Borsare said. “But I haven’t seen a crowd like this in the park since I have lived here.”

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