COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (CBS4) – Painfully slow traffic tested the patience and sanity of many hockey fans traveling to attend the Colorado Avalanche’s outdoor game at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium Saturday night. For hours leading up to the game, North Gate Boulevard was a several-mile long sea of red tail lights. The traffic also overflowed on to north and southbound I-25.
“I feel like they should have had some type of plan,” said Michelle Bregman, who was attending the game with her husband, Ryan.
The Bregmans were among the many fans stuck in standstill traffic about an hour before puck drop. Eventually, the two decided to park their car near the parking lot of a 7/11 and join the crowds making the 3 miles walk to Falcon Stadium.
Many of the fans conceded the fact that, walk or drive, they’d be missing part of the much-anticipated game.
“I’m not really sure what they could have done to anticipate this, but at this point it’s just a huge bummer to be missing a good chunk of the game,” Bregman said.
“Sure it’s frustrating, but I can’t complain. it’s not like it’s a big surprise,” said Adam Myers, who planned to attend the game with his son.
Overall, traffic on and off the interstate was painfully slow throughout afternoon, with major slowdowns between Castle Rock and Monument, due to emergency lane closures by CDOT.
Many fans told CBS4 their trips from Denver took between two and four hours.
Patrick Deans, who came to town from Lexington, Kentucky to see the game, tells CBS4 he watched the first two periods on his phone while stuck in traffic, despite leaving Castle Rock four hours before the start of the game.
“We could see the ice, we could see everything, so it was just kind of painful knowing you’re that close and you can’t just get through traffic,” Deans said. “We sat in traffic for about three hours.”
Drivers also experienced heavy traffic in the 18-mile South Gap Project on I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument. On Saturday afternoon, CDOT announced its crews would be closing lanes in the area for emergency pothole repairs.
We’ve moved 10 ft in an hour. I got out of the car to stretch my legs. Walked back to the stadium & staff are letting people go back in to use the bathroom #StadiumSeries #GoAvsGo @AF_Academy pic.twitter.com/jDiCRLoDMJ
— Dago Cordova (@dago_deportes) February 16, 2020
On Sunday, a spokesperson for CDOT told CBS4 the closures were necessary because of significant potholes that could have caused a crash that would have closed the interstate for hours.
Many fans got the memo and took alternate routes to get to Monument.
“We had to take the back roads all the way through Perry Park and it took us about two hours,” said Tom Osoba, who attended the game with his wife and one of his two daughters, who are both cadets at the Air Force Academy.
Despite the traffic, Osoba and others enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the outdoor game.
“The fly overs, the setup, the atmosphere, it’s been an awesome experience,” Osoba said.
Young Kings fan, Shepard Morgan and his friend Rowan Moss said they will tell their class all about the game on Monday. For father Brian Moss, that made the whole day worth it.
We've watched this 20+ times…
Can confirm it's worth every second 🤯 pic.twitter.com/FzFpknhZEm
— Air Force Falcons (@AF_Falcons) February 16, 2020
“It’s like a once in a lifetime thing, especially that it’s here in Colorado and the Air Force Academy,” Moss said. “I think it’s just great to be experiencing it.”
Following the end of the game, traffic around the stadium was equally as bad. CBS4’s crew observed standstill traffic and observed a fire truck struggle to navigate the packed roads.
According to the Academy, some of the traffic was related to a death investigation on North Gate Boulevard.
On Sunday afternoon, the Air Force Academy released the following statement regarding concerns with the 2020 NHL Stadium Series event:
Multiple efforts were made by the NHL and Air Force Academy to warn attendees about potential traffic delays getting to the sold out Stadium Series game yesterday. In addition to website and social media posts, and signage along the I-25 corridor in the week leading up to the game, the NHL alerted the more than 43,000 fans who had purchased tickets about the need to allow plenty of time in travelling to Falcon Stadium on game day. As well, in the week leading up to the game, the NHL through numerous media interviews reminded fans about the need to plan their travel based on anticipated delays.
To mitigate the anticipated traffic congestion, the Academy opened at 5:30 a.m. and eliminated vehicle ID checks at 12:30pm – five and half hours before the game. We thank the many fans who took advantage of that window to arrive well in advance and enjoy the Fan Fest activities that started at 1pm. Because of this early planning, the vast majority of fans were able to get to the stadium prior to the puck drop and had an amazing experience at the game.
Unfortunately, several factors the day of the game came together to cause even greater than expected traffic delays. Unlike many large sports venues, all traffic into the two gates at the Air Force Academy comes from one interstate. In the hours leading up to the game, there were numerous road condition changes and unforeseen events including multiple lane closures in both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-25, emergency pothole repairs that forced further lane closures, and multiple vehicle accidents between Castle Rock and Monument. Despite our best efforts, all of these, added to the already challenging traffic conditions along the I-25 corridor, combined and unfortunately impacted some fans travelling to the game.
At the conclusion of the game, as we were routing traffic off base, there was a tragic incident at our North Gate that resulted in the death of one of our guests. Outbound traffic was immediately diverted to allow for emergency response crews and investigators to arrive on scene. While the details of that incident are still under investigation, we are devastated by the event and send the deepest condolences to his loved ones. We thank all of the crews who worked to clear traffic from the base despite only having one gate and we appreciate the patience and understanding of everyone impacted.
While we regret the unfortunate circumstances experienced by some fans, a near capacity crowd was in their seats at the start of an exciting night of hockey. We appreciate the efforts of fans who planned ahead and arrived early and most were able to enjoy a fantastic evening with multiple flyovers and musical performances that highlighted the competitive spirit of the NHL, the history and culture of the Academy, and the milestone achievements of USA Hockey.
The Colorado Department of Transportation released a timeline of Saturday’s pothole work on Monday:
• Anticipating high traffic volumes on I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs due to the NHL Stadium Series game, I-25 South Gap crews were not planning to have lane closures on Saturday, Feb. 15
• Around noon on Saturday, Feb. 15, several large potholes opened up along southbound I-25. These potholes were large enough to cause a safety concern and needed to be fixed immediately. Delaying emergency pothole operations could have led to a crash within the I-25 Gap project. Severe crashes within the project have the potential to cause lengthy full closures.
• 12:22 p.m. – CDOT notifies I-25 South Gap crews of several new potholes along southbound I-25 at MP 162 (one mile south of County Line Road). CDOT directs Kraemer that they need to be fixed ASAP
• 12:32 p.m. – Kraemer repair crews begin mobilizing to gather materials and meet traffic control crews at the staging location at the northbound rest area
• 12:32 p.m. – South Gap Courtesy Patrol arrives at the pothole location to assist
• 1:31 p.m. – Repair crews and traffic control teams depart staging area to the pothole location
• 1:50 p.m. – South Gap communications team sends text alert to more than 3,000 subscribers about pothole work
• Text reads: SOUTH GAP: Day & night lane closures NB and SB I-25 for emergency pothole work. Construction on Frontage Rds. Stay on I-25. Cotrip.org for travel times.
• 1:54 p.m. – South Gap communications team calls Denver and Colorado Springs media about the pothole work and need for fans to leave early and expect delays
• 2 p.m. – South Gap communications team posts to South Gap Facebook page about emergency pothole repairs:
• TRAFFIC UPDATE: Daytime and nighttime mobile lane closures, both directions of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock for emergency pothole repair. Expect delays. Increased traffic is expected due to the Colorado Avalanche game at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs. Please note that there is construction on the frontage roads, so stay the course on I-25. Use cotrip.org for up-to-date travel information.
• 2 p.m. – Repair crew arrives at the pothole location and begins roadway repairs
• 2:43 p.m. – Pothole repairs are complete, and the repair crew and traffic control teams depart southbound I-25. Crews impacted daytime traffic for less than one hour
• 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. – Night crews work on SB I-25. No NB lane closures occurred overnight on Saturday and Sunday. NO pothole operations were being conducted in the northbound lanes on the evening of Saturday, February 15
• There were potholes in both directions. The worst of them were southbound, so crews focused just on those. When original messaging was released, there was a possibility crews would be performing emergency repair in both directions and the goal was to prepare people for that. NO pothole operations were being done in the northbound lanes on the evening of Saturday, February 15.
• There wasn’t any planned construction happening Saturday, Feb. 15. The only closures that took place were mobile single lane closures due to potholes.
• The southernmost point of the I-25 South Gap Project is mile point 160. The entrance to the Air Force Academy is located off the North Academy Blvd. (mile point 150) exit. Once motorists exit I-25, they are no longer on the state highway system.
• At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Feb 15, there was a five-vehicle crash, near the northern end of the project. Delays from the crash were separate from the emergency pothole operations. The crash did cause a temporary closure of I-25 and the West Frontage Road, for fire personnel to respond.
• It is not possible to divert traffic from southbound onto northbound I-25. There is no connecting pavement, so that could never be an option.
• Organizers of events that may impact travel on the state highway system may be required to apply for a special event permit through the Colorado State Patrol
• Colorado Department of Transportation does not use taxpayer funding to provide traffic control for sporting events or concerts.
• Snow run off and freeze thaw are increasing potholes and is a common problem this time of year.
• Mobile pothole operations close a quarter-mile, one lane section of the roadway. Repairs on made in the closed section and once completed, the crews move to the next quarter-mile section.