City of Montgomery officials recently completed a "post-event audit" after some fans complained about their visit to the Camellia Bowl hosted at the Cramton Bowl on December 27.
Fans who went to Montgomery to watch the Buffalo versus Georgia Southern matchup at 11 a.m. on Tuesday after Christmas vented to local media outlets shortly after the event about their frustrations with parking, concessions and one long ticketing line.
"We know that there were concerns with the guest experiences with the Camellia Bowl," said Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed at a city council meeting Tuesday night. "The city puts a lot of money, effort, and energy behind that. So anytime it gets to the level of getting beyond just the public discourse but into the media regarding events, we want to make sure that we address it. We realize that lodging taxes are a big part of our revenue source. It comes from tourism, and it comes from people having a great experience when they come to Montgomery. We want to be responsive to those critiques that we hear when we hear them."
December. 26, the day before the Camellia Bowl, was a federal holiday since Christmas was on a Sunday in 2022.
"The only place remotely ready for this bowl was @WaffleHouse," wrote a visiting fan on Twitter identified as Gregg and quoted by the Montgomery Advertiser after the bowl game. "Every other venue was closed or poorly maintained and stocked. When you have to go outside @CityofMGM to get food the night before a Bowl game because nothing is available in the city, that's not incredible."
Reed said, "We have performed a full post-event audit and after-action report, and we have identified the miscues…those from the city and those from partners.
"We plan to implement some of those solutions to ensure that it won't happen again," he continued. "We realized that there has to be more collaboration between the city and our downtown merchants and retailers. We also have to make sure that we address some of the facility concerns at Cramton Bowl that were highlighted and brought up. Some of those we've known about…or were a little bit new as well... We have to be prepared for what may be the maximum crowd we have.
"Georgia Southern brought a great crowd here," Reed said. "We're excited about that. We want them to come back, but at the same time, we know that we can't prepare for what we think is going to be the crowd. We have to be prepared for what may be the maximum crowd we have."
David Card, Montgomery Parks and Recreation Director, said a long line at the will call gate and concessions were issues at the bowl game.
"We did not run out of food or beverages," Card said at the meeting. "We had one incident by which a customer requested a specific adult beverage that we did not have immediately at that moment. We normally have a process by which, between the second quarter and halftime that somebody will kind of flag and say, 'Hey, kind of give me a checklist of where we are and how much we're missing.' That didn't happen, so therefore, we're addressing that part as well."
Card suggested reorganizing the 100-year-old venue to better handle large crowds.
"We had every line available open," he said. "Yes, we had 15,000 fans or so. However, we ran out of nothing except for pretzels at the end of the game. What the customer had an issue with was really centered around the long line piece. I'm not sure how much we can do about that. One thing we're going to do is we're going to take Madison Avenue between the east and west bleachers, and we're going to make that a part of the venue from this point on. On that streetside, make that pedestrian walkway a pasture that you can go from eastside to westside. Bring in tables. Bring in food trucks. Put a flat screen tv there, so we'll try to make that space an additional space for concession process to be able to address that going forward."
Card said, "with the parking piece, we have to do a better job of how we work with our partners, be it downtown businesses as well as our state employees."
Buffalo eked out a 23-21 win over Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl.
Buffalo (7-6) won a bowl game for the third straight time after dropping its first three bowl appearances. Georgia Southern finished the season with a 6-7 record.
The Camellia Bowl has been played in Montgomery since 2014.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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