VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – At 8:57 p.m. Sunday night, well after the Janet Jackson concert had started at Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater in Virginia Beach, a Google Map that Norfolk resident Debra Kraus was using showed that it would take 19 minutes to travel 700 feet.
“If I could have maneuvered out of traffic, I probably would have turned around,” Kraus said. “I was locked into where I was.”
As she sat, she wondered where the traffic control was.
“I saw no traffic control. … They failed in not being present,” Kraus said. “I did not see any evidence anybody was out there until the very end when I saw flashing lights coming up Princess Anne…we were diverted down to Dam Neck Road…and then the cars started moving…by then it was too late.”
Off-duty Virginia Beach Sheriff’s deputies run traffic control. 10 On Your Side asked the Sheriff’s Office what went wrong.
“There are limited ingress and egress points and the large number of vehicles that arrived after 7 p.m. made it difficult to get vehicles into the parking lots quickly,” the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office said.
That was the problem.
Thousands like Kraus were arriving after 7 p.m. because the traffic wasn’t moving.
10 On Your Side received reports of heavy traffic and backups at the concert, specifically on Princess Anne Road. Some concertgoers told WAVY that they were waiting up to 3-and-a-half hours to get to the venue. Some drivers were even captured on video jumping the curb to try to cut in line and get to the venue quicker.
The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office also noted that despite the barrage of traffic, 7,000 people were directed into the parking lots between 8 and 9:15 p.m., when traffic was officially cleared.
But opening act Ludacris was way done, and Janet Jackson was nearly done at that point.
Kraus had a message to concert promoter Live Nation.
“Please be more organized,” Kraus said. “Please train your staff to deal with the huge numbers of people coming to your shows. We want to be there, and we are excited to be there, and we deserve to be there.”
Live Nation said it prepared for a large number of people to attend the show and noted fans received two emails and a robocall from the venue about the expected high traffic. The venue, it said, also shared advisories on social media and worked with local radio stations to share the information.
As WAVY reported Monday, the venue sent concert-goers emails and posted several messages to social media well ahead of the show warning that they should arrive early, with high traffic volumes anticipated.
Live Nation said the parking lots were scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m., but opened early. It also noted that many fans arrived in groups of two, which it called “abnormal” – noting that for most shows, fans carpool and rideshare services.
The concert promoter also said “the majority of fans” were in the venue by the time Jackson began performing. It said it issued a post-show survey to fans to share their experiences.
The Sheriff’s Office, in a statement to 10 On Your Side, said that “in anticipation of heavy concert traffic this past Sunday, May 14, the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office stationed deputies to direct traffic an hour earlier than normal. This was in alignment with notifications from LiveNation advising concert-goers to arrive early due to expected heavy traffic. Deputies were present at all assigned locations, including operating the traffic control box at the corner of Princes Anne Road and Concert Drive.”
10 On Your Side received conflicting accounts from concertgoers who said there was no traffic control at the intersection that VBSO mentioned in their statement, and that they did not see deputies directing traffic until visitors made it to the venue parking lot.
The statement continued by saying that the limited entrance and exit points at the venue, combined with the number of visitors who arrived after 7 p.m., made it difficult to get vehicles into the parking lot quickly.
The Sheriff’s Office also reminded people in their statement that those who will be attending shows at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater should give themselves extra time to travel to and from the venue.
Kraus is confident she knows where to place blame.
“Oh, it rests with Live Nation,” Kraus said. They are the organizers, they are the ones I gave my money to and they failed to deliver to me.”
The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheatre would not provide anyone to interview with WAVY about the traffic complaints.