Refund Please

We took some clients to the show at The Ranch. In today's Coloradoan there is an opinion piece espousing support for The Ranch. The opening event of the Budwiser Events Center at The Ranch suggests there is a great deal of work to be done.

The problems start when one arrives for an event. Coming from the south there is a miserly single lane of traffic once a driver departs Interstate 25. The single lane, shared with eastbound traffic on Crossroads Blvd., provides for stingy flow into the center. The problem is compounded by having to travel to the eastern side of the center to get in. Where is the entrance on the west? As the center is situated east of Interstate 25 and in the eastern most reaches of the county it's a safe bet that most of the arriving traffic will be coming from the west.

Twenty five minutes after leaving the interstate we finally arrive in the parking space and set off on the next phase of the journey. Approaching the front door, where the lines of people trying to enter are reminiscent of the security lines at DIA just after September 11, a venue attendant says "There is no waiting at the east entrance". We set off and find the east entrance. It's easy to identify as it's the one door on the east side of the building that is open. It is also the line with several hundred people in it. Another 20 minutes later and we finally are inside the center. We are not helped by the fact that there is no external signage, or indication of the tickets which entrance to use so our seats in Section U are about as far from our entrance at Section F as one could get.

Upon taking a seat in the events center one is immediately impressed with the job that has been done to pack as many people as possible into the venue. There are two positions one can take in the seats, either you can put your knees in your neighbor's lap or you can perform a yoga maneuver and attempt to somehow fold them under your seat. Whatever one's chosen option there is a certainty that a couple of dozen times one will bump into those in front, beside and behind you. As the necessary contortions are set and the show begins one is apt to reflect fondly upon their last trip in coach on an airliner and what now seems like a luxurious space on those craft. The next discovery is the sub-arctic air being pumped at an insane rate directly down on the audience.

Just as it appeared the show might finally get underway the real embarrassment begins. Bill Cosby ascended the darkened stage and was illuminated by four spotlights. The spotlights, placed in the upper levels of the audience each spilled long beams of bright light off into the audience. This was the first issue Mr. Cosby attempted to address, however since the microphone provided didn't work and the only sound successfully produced was a feedback loop he had to first wait for new equipment. Once the new microphone arrived Mr. Cosby had to give the staff a lesson on straight from stagecraft 101. A few minutes later with the spotlights mercifully extinguished and the remaining lighting spotty on the stage Mr. Cosby was able to turn to getting the sound fixed.

"In about 15 minutes the star of the show is going to be the sound man and the box office as you're getting refunds," Mr. Cosby told the audience. He went on to say that we'd work through it, but the low hum, reminiscent of the beginning of a feedback loop persisted for well over an hour. What it was the audience will never know but it seems likely it was some piece of chilling equipment, although the arctic blast of air continued after the sound was finally mercifully ended.

A couple of other notes to the folks running The Ranch. When you put video screens and speakers above a stage in the round, the screens are supposed to be outside the speakers. The current setup at The Ranch means the screens are marginally viewable by much of the audience whose view is blocked by the speaker towers. Also, if you're going to use live video on a monitor you need to have someone with experience shooting the event. Fortunately Mr. Cosby could not see the shaky, wobbling image, often of his back. Certainly there are several folks throughout the communities in the county who could come help get people up to speed.

While as a resident of Northern Colorado this was the peak of the embarrassment for the evening it was far from the end of the frustration. After a wonderful show the audience headed for the exits and the parking lot to head home. However, this was just the beginning of the next ordeal. Forty minutes after starting the car we were finally at the edge of the parking lot. One makes a note to themselves at such times that next time it would be faster to drive to Denver and go to the show at the Pepsi Center than it is to wait to get into this little facility. Many people waiting in the parking lot finally gave up and headed out across the empty lot (which they had been directed to park in) and straight for the frontage road. This ended up exacerbating the situation as the police folks who were supposed to be helping get traffic out of the venue were instead re-assigned to making sure nobody escaped the wait to exit the lot.

There might very well have been a better way out of the parking lot, or even in to it for that matter. We'll never know. The $5 we paid for parking evidently wasn't enough to even purchase a package of paper plates on which signs could be written. Even once we did get out traffic was further slowed by people exercising caution for the police folks picking up the cones. With lines of traffic still streaming from the center there was evidently more interest in getting home than in seeing the traffic out to Interstate 25. A majority of the traffic from Interstate 25 went southbound after the show. Perhaps this indicates that many people from the Denver area came to see the show. I'm fairly certain they won't be back.

The good people of Larimer County deserve a refund. For those who attended the show a refund of at least a portion of the ticket price and an invitation to return and see the center again once the problems are fixed. For the tax-payers of Larimer County and the sponsors who lent their names and dollars to the facilitates a refund of the salaries of the people responsible for this mess are in order until the problems are fixed. What is supposed to be a gem for the area, and a facility that could be fixed, should not be allowed to remain an embarrassment to the community. I'll sooner hold my next client meeting at McDonalds instead of facing the embarrassment of taking someone to this facility before it is fixed.