A Systems Approach to Improving the Spectator Experience at Collegiate Football Games; The Impact of UVA Emergency Plans for Scott Stadium

Freed, Abigail, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Riggs, Robert, EN-SIE, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN, University of Virginia

Collegiate football games promote comradery among all members of the university community while simultaneously bringing in revenue for the university. In an effort to maximize profits, many universities seek to enhance the game day experience to ensure sold out crowds. This portfolio explores the technical and sociotechnical considerations in accomplishing this. At the University of Virginia, a team of systems engineers observed all aspects of the 2022 UVA Football season to identify areas of improvement in the game day experience and help the University achieve its goal of maximizing fan participation.

The technical report details this analysis and process. Proposed solutions from the technical work include changes to traffic patterns, edited and increased signage along surrounding roads and relevant routes, creation of pedestrian paths from parking areas, redesign of the UVA Game Day website to better convey information to spectators, changes in concession offerings and locations of concession stands based on sales data, simulation of ingress at gates based on staffing, and much more. These proposed changes aim to make game day run as smoothly as possible so that spectators will find it easy and pleasant to attend games at Scott Stadium.

While a full stadium is a key component to profit maximization, it is not without significant risks to health and safety. At a football game (like any large gathering), should anything go wrong, having a large number of people in a confined space with fixed exit points introduces many potential challenges. The sociotechnical report uses actor network theory and ethical exploration on information gained during an interview with the UVA Department of Emergency Management and a literature review to understand the impacts of emergency planning. The many actor-networks that develop in an emergency make it impossible to fully plan and prepare for an emergency situation. Acknowledging the unknown and uniqueness of every emergency in the planning process is essential to fulfilling the University’s ethical obligation to its spectators. An emergency plan for a given venue should be continually improving. All efforts to model and understand what cannot be predicted, like human behavior, will ensure the highest probability of success when a plan has to be used.

Making technical changes to game day operations is meaningless without considering the risks to human life. Improving ingress reduces inconvenience but ensuring safe and effective egress has the potential to save lives in an emergency situation. Thinking about the different actor-networks also helps to better understand why a proposed technical change may or may not improve profitability. Being able to see the gaps uncovered by the actor-network helps ensure robust solutions, both for attendance maximization and evacuation.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
College Football Game, Actor Network Theory, Large Gathering, Event Planning, Emergency Planning, Evacuation, Stadium
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