SPJA Comments on Anime Expo 2017's Saturday Security Line Fiasco
posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Anime Expo launched to overwhelming crowds on Saturday, so much so that attendees found themselves gridlocked in multi-hour wait lines to get through the event's security to enter the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation published a statement on Sunday to acknowledge the situation. The SPJA's official statement is as follows:
PUBLIC STATEMENT BY SPJA RE LONG WAIT AT EVENT ENTRY
Safety and security for Anime Expo attendees are SPJA's highest priority. SPJA deeply regrets attendees' frustration at the long waits to enter Anime Expo yesterday. SPJA immediately added many more bag check stations as lines grew. As of yesterday, 70,000 attendees checked in and went through bag check. Overnight, SPJA moved its shuttle bus drop off point. Today, those who already have badges can enter along the South side of West Hall rather than in front, where people first pick up badges. This morning, lines are moving more quickly. Delays are under half an hour.
The world we live in has changed dramatically. Balancing enhanced security with treasured parts of the AX experience, like cosplay, moved Prop Weapons check outside the event. To accommodate the extra time bag check would require, SPJA opened registration on Thursday, a full day earlier than usual. The registration line moved quickly, but the separate bag check line slowed and then merged. Immediately, SPJA reorganized the lines and opened more bag check stations. For Day 2, many more bag check stations were added, fans were asked to bring fewer bags to the event, and shuttle routes were changed.
Given recent world events, for everyone's safety and security, there was no choice but to implement bag checks. SPJA is deeply sorry that doing so made the first day experience so difficult for many. We deeply appreciate the patience everyone showed yesterday. Some one-day badge holders who were not able to enter the event until late in the day were given substitute one-day badges for another day at AX, or were given refunds if they were not able to return another day. Today's entry into the event is moving smoothly. Please come to AX and enjoy the incredible talent and programming here for fans of anime and Japanese culture.
Anime News Network also reached out to SPJA Chief Operations Officer Ray Chiang to both clarify the cause of the long wait and what was changed on Day 2 to manage the situation.
ANN: What's the security and attendance situation this year?
Chiang: Due to the world we live in today, domestically and overseas, as an organization we needed to step up security measures. This year and years past we implemented a bag check. We're enforcing that this year, that every attendee that comes in with bags needs to have those bags checked. It's of utmost importance that everyone is safe inside this building.
ANN: The lines on Saturday were miles and miles long. We're seeing photos of attendees lined up in some pretty unsecure areas. What are you doing about the line length?
Chiang: The issue we ran into yesterday was the pre-registration line merged with the registration line because of the large crowd. We saw the problem immediately and did our best to rectify that with more entry locations and personnel. Yesterday afternoon we saw the line taper down a lot. We were able to process everyone that was in line yesterday by 9 p.m. Some of the people with Saturday badges that weren't able to get in were able to get a compensated Sunday, Monday, Tuesday badge or refund. Those comped badges or refunds were all processed yesterday, to my knowledge.
What we did immediately is we implemented a new plan by relocating the hotel shuttles to Pico Street. We worked yesterday with the building to carve out that area. We also added the Venice garage area just in case the pre-register line got too long this morning. I assessed this morning and we don't have a line out there today. It's a very positive outcome. We maneuvered immediately overnight. Our team, and me, lost a lot sleep over that. We were just as frustrated as those attendees in lines for hours. I really feel their frustration and empathize.
ANN: Originally, how many badge check locations were there?
Chiang Originally it was just two at the West and South entrances. Yesterday we added additional personnel. We had to increase quickly yesterday in the West and South entrances. We opened one on Pico as well to add a relieve valve for people getting in.
Today, we didn't only increase at those entrances, but we also added multiple entry points including two more at Kentia parking lot we also implemented what we call "North Apron," which is the loading sites closest to Microsoft Theater. We're also added a ticketing booth on the West side and added a bag check there. The crowd today was able to funnel in very smoothly.
ANN: There are accusations that you oversold the badges for the con and the crowding is a result of that oversale. Can you comment on that?
Chiang: That's not true. We did not oversell badges, we held our number similar to last year. We're anticipated a single digit percentage increase from the previous year. We hold that number of badges sold to keep from oversaturating the building.
ANN: There's a cap due to legal considerations, like the fire code.
Chiang We're not close to the legal limit. Sometimes it feels like when you have 100,000 people in here, but we aren't going to reach that number. We want our fans to enjoy the show and have the best experience, and our top priority is obviously safety.
ANN: We've noticed that Premiere Fan, Press, ADA lines are pretty close to the event locations, while regular fans are being sent pretty far away to line-up.
Chiang: I'll have to look into that. Our ADA attendees are our top priority, but that's unacceptable.
ANN: Is there any thought about moving all the lines inside? Is that a possibility?
Chiang: That might be more challenging. We will have to reassess that after this year. Our main focus right now, because of Saturday, is to ensure that people are getting inside in the first place.
There are some comments the metal detectors doesn't appear to be functioning? They aren't going off when attendees with metal in their pockets go through them. It is giving the impression, to some, that their more a part of security theater than actual security.
Chiang: I don't have information on that. Next year, we are moving toward the direction of RFID.
ANN: Who should attendees who weren't able to get in on Saturday get in touch with for a refund or comped extra day badge?
Chiang They should e-mail [email protected]