BLACKSBURG — Fans at Lane Stadium on Saturday were happier than they were the previous week — and it had nothing to do with how the Virginia Tech football team did on the field.
Fans who had attended Tech’s season-opening win over North Carolina on Sept. 3 endured long lines to get into the stadium and more long lines at the concession stands.
The lines were not as much of a headache Saturday — in part because the win over Middle Tennessee drew only about 53,000 fans, not the sellout crowd that attended the opener.
Johnny Asimakopoulos of Roanoke said he and his wife were in line for about five minutes to get into Lane on Saturday, compared to 30 to 45 minutes for the opener.
“Last week was a cluster, so a lot better [this time],” he said.
This is the first school year that Tech fans can no longer enter games with paper tickets; they must use mobile tickets.
Kevin Nicholson of Salem said he waited five minutes to get into Lane on Saturday, compared to 25 to 30 minutes at the opener.
“They were pushing through the people a lot more quickly,” he said.
With Lane Stadium lacking a great wireless signal, some fans at the opener found it hard to access their tickets on their phones. So Virginia Tech implored fans in a written statement Wednesday to download their tickets to their phones before they get to the stadium.
Cindy Speegle of Yorktown made sure her ticket was visible on her phone before she got to Lane on Saturday — unlike at the opener.
“Our tickets didn’t work [last time], so we were in line for over 45 minutes. We couldn’t pull up the tickets because the Wi-Fi was horrible,” she said.
This is the first season in which beer and hard seltzers can be bought in the Lane concourses. Tech has also switched this season to cashless purchases at the concession stands.
Those changes — and staffing issues — made for long lines at concession stands at the opener.
So Virginia Tech added 15 beverage-only lines Saturday. Tech also reduced the number of menu options at concession stands.
Amanda Knighting of Gordonsville said she waited in line for less than five minutes Saturday to get a beer, a hard seltzer, a soda and a hot dog for her and her friends on the east side of the stadium. She said at the opener, her cousin was in line for the entire second quarter.
“Last week was awful. This week was awesome,” she said.
Franklin Jett of Hillsville said it took him only a couple minutes to buy beer on the east side of the stadium Saturday. At the opener, he waited in line for all of halftime.
Heidi Vaught of Lynchburg said she waited in line for pretzels and drinks for 15 minutes on the west side Saturday, compared to 90 minutes at the opener.
Nick Carter and Amy Dodson of Roanoke said they waited in line for 20-30 minutes to get beer and a turkey leg at the turkey-leg stand on the west side Saturday, compared to waiting about 90 minutes at a concession stand at the opener.
Jeff Day of Lee County said he waited 30 minutes to get beer at a concession stand on the west side of the stadium Saturday, compared to 45-60 minutes at the opener.
“It’s gotten better, but they still need to do something,” Day said.
Glen Klesat of Richmond waited 25 minutes on the west side Saturday to get beer and water. He said he gave up waiting in line at the opener because the line was twice as long as it was Saturday.
“They [still] need to fix it,” he said of the wait. “They should be serving water in the stands.”
Another issue at the opener was Tech students sitting in seats reserved for the general public. Students assumed their general-admission tickets enabled them to sit anywhere.
So Virginia Tech spelled out in its statement Wednesday where students should sit once the north-end-zone seats were full.
Tech also installed tarps below sections 25 and 27 in the east stands for Saturday’s game. Students were told they must sit above the tarps.
Jett said that at the opener, students were in his seats when he got to the stands. This time, his seats were empty.
Speelge said at the opener, students were in some of her seats. She said that was not the case Saturday.
Another issue at the opener was bottles being thrown by fans. One fan who declined to give his name said he was hit by a bottle Saturday.