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Many, including UNC chancellor and NFL Hall of Famer, turned away by fire marshal at arena

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Charlotte authorities shut the doors of Time Warner Cable Arena Thursday night, turning away many who were waiting to get inside for President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

Rob Kinniburg, Charlotte’s fire marshal, ordered the doors closed about 7 p.m., because the arena had reached capacity. It was the second straight night he took such action.

This time, the group of those turned away included some notable names – UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phillip DuBois; former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris; and Al Hunt, a Bloomberg News columnist and husband of PBS’s Judy Woodruff.

Jonathan Leonard, the city’s deputy fire marshal, said people were being admitted the arena at 9:30 p.m., but on a limited basis – as people left the arena, others were allowed in.

“Every building has its occupant capacity,” Leonard said.

There had been speculation of a possible problem with overcrowding at the arena, especially after DNC officials decided Wednesday to move the entire Thursday program from Bank of America Stadium, where about 80,000 people had been expected, to the arena, where capacity is a maximum of 20,000.

On Wednesday night, Kinniburg closed the arena doors for about 30 minutes. Authorities moved some of the people who were standing in hallways and aisles to their seats, allowing the doors to reopen.

On Thursday night, the doors apparently remained shut – except for delegates and members of Congress.

Among those who were shut out was Alex Moyer, 62, of Cornelius. He was part of a group that planned to trade passes during the evening. The plan fell apart when the first person who went inside could not come out.

Moyer said he was disappointed but added, “This is fun. ... There aren’t too many Democrats in Cornelius.”

And not even all of the delegates got inside so easily.

William Pascrell III, a New Jersey delegate, said he arrived about 7:45 p.m. at the arena and spent two hours being sent to different entrances. He finally was admitted about 9:45 p.m.

“It could have been better organized,” said Pascrell, attending his sixth convention.

It was much the same for Chris Valdez, a delegate from New York. He said he was stuck outside the arena for about 90 minutes before getting inside about 9:40 p.m.

He finally got inside the arena at the Trade Street entrance -- he thinks because someone with the Democratic National Convention staff was with him. “Luckily, I’m here,” he said.

Taylor Batten, Ann Helms, Peter St. Onge, Lindsay Ruebens and Celeste Smith and Franco Ordonez contributed.

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