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Rams, Coliseum seek to improve game conditions for fans in second home game of season

Rams, Coliseum seek to improve game conditions for fans in second home game of season
Fans cheer for the Los Angeles Rams during a 9-3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum on Sept. 18, 2016. (Patrick Fallon / For The Times)

Packing 91,000 fans into an antiquated 93-year-old stadium on a steamy 90-degree afternoon proved a volatile mix for the Rams and the Coliseum on Sept. 18, when the NFL returned to Los Angeles for the first time in 22 years.

About 160 people — 14 of whom were hospitalized — were treated for heat-related issues during the Rams-Seahawks game; there were long lines and wait times for food and beverages, and many concession stands ran out of water, prompting numerous complaints to the Rams and the stadium's Facebook page.

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Much like the home team, which rebounded from a season-opening 28-0 loss at San Francisco to win three straight games, the Rams and the Coliseum are looking for a bounce-back performance Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"Some of our guests had an experience that was not acceptable to us, and we are well aware of that," said Jake Bye, the Rams' vice president of consumer sales. "We've been working for three weeks … to come up with what we think is a pretty impactful list of tangible changes that fans will see on Sunday."

Heading that list is a new plan for the storage and distribution of concession products, the most important of which, with a 1:25 p.m. kickoff and temperatures expected to reach 88 degrees on Sunday, is water.

Eight portable auxiliary warehouses to store food and beverage — five outside the stadium and three on the concourse level inside the stadium — have been added, and the number of vendors hawking products inside the bowl will be more than doubled, from 125 in the home opener to about 300.

"It's important to note that we never ran out of water," Bye said. "It was the logistics and the process, the confluence of congestion on the concourses from people seeking shade, the overall demand for water and the inability to get it to the concession stands in a timely manner."

Those concession stands, which were built in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, lack storage, so they are constantly restocked during events with product that previously was stored in one warehouse on the west end of the stadium.

With fans seeking shade on the narrow concourses and in the 56 tunnels leading into the bowl, the corridors for those moving product from the storage facility to the concession stands were clogged. And the low number of vendors inside the bowl forced fans to concession stands, creating longer lines.

"If you're standing in line for water and you're told, 'I'm sorry, we're out, but it's coming in 10 minutes,' you're not gonna stand around for 10 minutes," Coliseum General Manager Joe Furin said. "And you, unfortunately, have had a bad customer experience."

With more vendors hawking water and food inside the bowl, there should be fewer trips to the concession stands. That should reduce lines and congestion on the concourse, making it easier for concession stands to be re-stocked.

With eight new satellite warehouses, "every corner of the building will be covered, everything will be within arm's reach," said Gian Rafaniello, a Legends general manager who oversees stadium hospitality.  Legends Hospitality operates concessions and premium dining at the Coliseum. "It shouldn't have to be moved through the crowd. It should be easily disbursed."

Four portable misters will be set up on the concourse for Sunday's game, and Furin said he hopes to triple that number for future games. An air-conditioned office on the south side of the stadium will be used as a cool-down space for fans.

Two large tents will be erected on the peristyle side of the Coliseum to provide more shade, and the game will be televised on large screens in the area.

Bye reiterated that fans can bring two factory-sealed bottles of water, as large as 17 ounces each, into the stadium in a clear plastic bag. Water stations will be added throughout the stadium so fans can refill those bottles.

"We know it's gonna be a warm day, so we would also ask for fans' help — wear light-colored clothing, wear a hat, bring sunscreen," Furin said. "And if you show up in a dark blue Rams jersey, we can sell you a white one."

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