Demand for free tickets to the Carolina Panthers’ annual Fan Fest paralyzed the team’s Ticketmaster service Friday morning as fans flooded the site to reserve their seats.
The site opened at 10 a.m. Friday, and by 5 p.m. all of the 60,000 tickets available tickets for the Aug. 5 event had been claimed.
Phil Youtsey, the Panthers’ executive director of ticketing and sponsorship, said Friday afternoon that he understood the process was frustrating for some fans but appreciated the support.
“We knew today people would go on, and to be honest with you the ticket system was overwhelmed and stressed out,” Youtsey said. “At one point, this is what they told me, they had over 40,000 devices hitting the system all at one time.
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“We can’t thank the fans enough because this shows how passionate they are. On the flipside I’m sorry if there was some inconvenience for the fans getting through.”
Several fans took to Twitter Friday morning to share their frustrations. They experienced unusually long wait times, and some had to refresh the page multiple times before reserving their ticket.
Fans were able to reserve up to six tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the span of a 6-minute phone conversation with an Observer reporter Friday afternoon, Youtsey said 5,000 tickets had been reserved.
Bank of America Stadium can seat 75,412 fans, but because of the fireworks show at the end of Fan Fest, the Panthers can’t seat fans in the upper level of the end zones for safety reasons.
Last year the Panthers had 55,000 fans come to Fan Fest, the most in the team’s history. Three years prior they had 25,000.
With such a demand for the free event, there is the potential for scalping.
“This is an event that is designed to be open and free to the public,” Youtsey said. “The secondary market is out of our control.”
Youtsey stressed that the other training camp practices in Spartanburg are also free and open to the public.
Players report to camp July 27, and the first practice is the following night at Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium.