Baylor University and city of Waco officials chalked up a logistical victory for Sunday’s inaugural McLane Stadium football game, but their experience will lead them to fine-tune plans for the second game Saturday.
City staffers Tuesday told Waco City Council that downtown shuttles worked efficiently, crowds at the stadium and the river were orderly, parking was sufficient and traffic jams were few.
“I was wanting to show you pictures of massive traffic problems, but there were none,” Police Chief Brent Stroman told the council. “As we started talking about this months back with Baylor, for everything we identified as potential problems, Baylor stepped up.”
Stroman said only two stadium-related citations were given Sunday, including a boat registration violation and a ticket theft.
Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr., who attended the game, said he was impressed.
“I was really pleased with how it all worked,” Duncan said at the council meeting. “A lot of people were anxious and worried we weren’t going to put our best foot forward, but I got nothing but compliments.”
Baylor officials agreed that plans to get crowds in and out of the stadium quickly worked well, despite some public fears.
“One thing that really worked overall was parking,” said Nick Joos, Baylor’s executive associate athletic director. “I know it was a great fear for a lot of people, but that really, really worked well. It’s really about patience — coming early and being patient.”
But Joos said the flood of early birds Sunday has led Baylor officials to plan to open the stadium gates two hours before this Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Northwestern, instead of 90 minutes as earlier planned.
Baylor officials said they also are discussing the pedestrian traffic jam that lasted for about 1½ hours Sunday afternoon at the boat basin bridge.
Baylor facilities vice president Brian Nicholson said “a perfect storm” of foot traffic occurred because of the timing of the hugely popular Robert Griffin III statue unveiling, and he doesn’t expect to see it repeated this Saturday.
Still, he said security will be posted at the bridge to keep the traffic moving.
Several witnesses described the bridge as swaying with the weight and movement of crowds passing over it, but Nicholson said that is normal and not a safety concern.
“All those bridges have elasticity — that’s the way they’re designed,” he said. “The bridge was safe, and it will be safe this weekend.”
Waco Transit had to adjust to the surge of people going to the stadium more than three hours before the game Sunday.
The city transit company was planning to start at 4:30 p.m. running six buses on a nine-minute loop from Fifth Street and Austin Avenue to the stadium. But as people began lining up downtown about 3 p.m., the buses began running early.
Waco Transit officials said the early rush was probably because of eagerness to see the stadium and the RG3 statue.
They plan again to start shuttle service at 4:30 p.m. for Saturday’s game.
Waco Transit does plan to move the post-game pickup point this Saturday to the stadium side of Interstate 35 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard so riders don’t have to cross the street.
Allen Hunter, assistant general manager of Waco Transit, said the free shuttle service made 5,696 one-way passenger trips to and from downtown Sunday, plus 1,151 trips to and from the handicap-accessible parking lot at the Baylor Research Collaboration Initiative building on Business 77.
He said waits were short for the shuttle, and the stadium site was virtually cleared within 45 minutes after the game.
“We were nowhere near capacity,” he said.
Meanwhile, about 90 boats floated around the stadium at various times Sunday without any serious problems, police and park rangers said.
Waco police joined city park rangers on their patrol boat from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. but wrote only one citation, for a boater who didn’t have proper registration. State game wardens also patrolled the river on two boats.
“It went pretty smoothly,” park ranger Kim Jennings said. “I was pleasantly surprised that most people were under control. . . . I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief. This stadium is big and new, but it’s not a crazy, free-for-all circus. It’s manageable.”
Alex Dixon, a Baylor alumnus and “sailgater” who spent the day on a 24-foot pontoon boat outside the stadium, said the scene was far less “chaotic” than he thought it would be.
“I think it was really successful,” he said. Dixon said he arrived at 9 a.m. Sunday and found that all the docking spots at the marina were taken by people who had spent the night there, so he dropped anchor.
“I think they could put more slips in and more tie-up places, and I think they will get filled pretty quickly,” he said.
Nicholson said that if boating demand continues through the season, boaters can expect more docking facilities next football season.