COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In the aftermath of Saturday's traffic mess surrounding the NHL hockey game at the Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium, KRDO NewsChannel 13 is trying to contact participating agencies Monday for their response to the situation.
A spokesman with the Colorado State Patrol said the troopers on duty in that area during the game are not working Monday and are unavailable for comment.
"This is also the federal holiday for Presidents Day and many offices are closed," the spokesman said.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 has left messages with the Air Force Academy, which was responsible for traffic control in and out of the AFA.
In a joint release issued Sunday, the AFA and the National Hockey League mentioned crashes in the Gap, and emergency pothole repairs there, as contributing factors in the traffic congestion.
Late Monday morning, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson said the agency will release a statement later in the day about the pothole repairs.
In Sunday's release, officials implied that only a minority of spectators was affected by the traffic backups -- saying that most fans arrived early, avoided the congestion and had a pleasant experience.
On several social media platforms, responses are mixed between those spectators and the spectators who complained of long traffic delays, missing parts of the game because of it, and even parking long distances away from the stadium and walking to their seats.
This is the release, issued late Sunday evening:
"Multiple efforts were made by the NHL and Air Force Academy to warn attendees about potential traffic delays getting to the sold out Stadium Series game yesterday. In addition to website and social media posts, and signage along the I-25 corridor in the week leading up to the game, the NHL alerted the more than 43,000 fans who had purchased tickets about the need to allow plenty of time in traveling to Falcon Stadium on game day. As well, in the week leading up to the game, the NHL through numerous media interviews reminded fans about the need to plan their travel based on anticipated delays.
"To mitigate the anticipated traffic congestion, the Academy opened at 5:30 a.m. and eliminated vehicle ID checks at 12:30pm – five and half hours before the game. We thank the many fans who took advantage of that window to arrive well in advance and enjoy the Fan Fest activities that started at 1pm. Because of this early planning, the vast majority of fans were able to get to the stadium prior to the puck drop and had an amazing experience at the game.
"Unfortunately, several factors the day of the game came together to cause even greater than expected traffic delays. Unlike many large sports venues, all traffic into the two gates at the Air Force Academy comes from one interstate. In the hours leading up to the game, there were numerous road condition changes and unforeseen events including multiple lane closures in both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-25, emergency pothole repairs that forced further lane closures, and multiple vehicle accidents between Castle Rock and Monument. Despite our best efforts, all of these, added to the already challenging traffic conditions along the I-25 corridor, combined and unfortunately impacted some fans traveling to the game.
"At the conclusion of the game, as we were routing traffic off base, there was a tragic incident at our North Gate that resulted in the death of one of our guests. Outbound traffic was immediately diverted to allow for emergency response crews and investigators to arrive on scene. While the details of that incident are still under investigation, we are devastated by the event and send the deepest condolences to his loved ones. We thank all of the crews who worked to clear traffic from the base despite only having one gate and we appreciate the patience and understanding of everyone impacted.
"While we regret the unfortunate circumstances experienced by some fans, a near capacity crowd was in their seats at the start of an exciting night of hockey. We appreciate the efforts of fans who planned ahead and arrived early and most were able to enjoy a fantastic evening with multiple flyovers and musical performances that highlighted the competitive spirit of the NHL, the history and culture of the Academy, and the milestone achievements of USA Hockey. "
KRDO NewsChannel 13 will continue to update this story as new details become available.
PREVIOUS STORY: SATURDAY, FEB. 15
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Thousands of drivers going to Saturday night's pro hockey game at the Air Force Academy 's Falcon Stadium were surprised -- and upset -- by traffic jams before and after the contest.
The Colorado State Patrol and AFA officials said Friday that they didn't anticipate any major traffic issues surrounding the game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings.
The situation also affected drivers who were driving in traffic, trying to get to and from other destinations.
"The traffic is horrible!" said a woman who texted KRDO NewsChannel 13 less that 30 minutes before the game began. "I am so frustrated right now! I'm trying to get home from Monument. I have never seen (any)thing like this in my life. Traffic is backed up in Gleneagle. Total standstill."
Even KRDO NewsChannel 13 General Manager Mark Pimentel was caught in the massive congestion, texting the following photo at the intersection of Voyager Parkway and North Gate Boulevard just before 5 p.m.
"(My) GPS says it will take us 20 minutes to go one mile," he said. "Would not be surprised if it takes us two hours to get four miles."
According to other news reports, because of the backups many drivers arrived at the game around halfway through and were forced to park long distances away and walk to the stadium.
"We missed the intermission concert by Sam Hunt," a driver said. "Then many people turned around and left almost as soon as they arrived to avoid the same kind of traffic jams going home. I've attended concerts here before and it was never like this."
Another spectator who attended the game said all departing traffic was directed through the academy's south gate and none of it used the north gate exit.
"I don't know why," he said. "Maybe there was a crash or something up north."
As it turns out, several crashes were reported in the Interstate 25 "Gap" construction zone between Monument and Castle Rock, and the Colorado Department of Transportation sent a tweet alerting drivers to emergency road repairs being conducted in that area.
Some drivers said the trip from Denver, which normally takes an hour, took as long as four hours Saturday afternoon.
Many drivers are demanding refunds for their game tickets. Officials weren't immediately available to respond Saturday night.
PREVIOUS STORY: FRIDAY, FEB. 14
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- With the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings in town Saturday for an icy hockey bout at the Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium, drivers might expect a slow journey up Interstate 25 before game time.
But the Colorado State Patrol and AFA officials say they don't expect traffic to be unusually heavy, even with more than 43,000 spectators expected for the game that starts just after 6 p.m.
"We're expecting traffic to be what it is during a home game against one of the service academies (Army or Navy)," said Troy Garnhart, associate athletic director of communications.
Normally, that means opening a third lane for arriving and departing traffic at the two main entrances to the AFA -- the north and south gates.
The state patrol said it will have extra troopers patrolling Interstate 25 between the AFA and the El Paso County line north of Monument, with assistance from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
"Most of the tickets for the game were sold in metro Denver," said Cpl. Ryan Novotny, of the state patrol. "So they'll probably enter through the north gate. Hopefully, that leaves the south gate less congested for local traffic."
Novotny said upgrades at the AFA, such as roundabouts at the north gate, have greatly improved traffic flow during special events.
"Makes our job much easier and allows us to bring more people on for an enforcement time like this, to where we can focus on the impaired drivers instead of worrying about having to direct traffic," he said.
Denver-area drivers also will have to navigate the "Gap" widening project between Monument and Castle Rock.
That doesn't generate any sympathy from Kathy Endicott, a manager at the sports apparel store Game Over.
"The people who live in Denver can have a little taste of what it's like to drive up for a Nuggets game or a Broncos game as we here in the Springs have to do," she said.
Endicott also said fans she spoke with who plan to attend the game are more worried about the cost and ease of parking, than about traffic.
Law enforcement agencies already have more patrols this weekend as part of a DUI crackdown for the Presidents' Day holiday.
"The AFA is an awesome place and (the hockey game) is a great event to be a part of," Novotny said. "We just hope that people are responsible with it. With sporting events come alcohol and good times. We just hope that people make the right decisions, and we'll be out there if they don't."