The heavy-metal band Scorpions is coming to town next month, and officials want to make sure there is no repeat of the trampling that killed three people at an AC/DC concert Friday night.
Hours after Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley expressed concern Tuesday about the Feb. 24 concert that is expected to fill the Salt Palace, officials from Spectacor, the company that runs the facility, announced it will place seats on the floor of the arena and will sell no general-admission tickets.Seats also will be on the floor for every other concert until an investigation into the deaths is completed, officials said, including the Stephen Stills concert scheduled for Thursday. Individuals who purchased general admission tickets for the Stills concert must exchange them for reserved seating tickets.
Some people have blamed the "festival seating" arrangement, in which concertgoers are allowed to roam freely on the arena floor, for the trampling deaths of Curtis Child, 14, of Logan, Jimmy Boyd, 14, of Salt Lake City, and Elizabeth Glausi, 19, a Brigham Young University student. They were pinned beneath a pile of people when thousands surged toward the stage.
Among those concerned about the seating arrangement is Tom Godfrey, chairman of the Salt Lake City Council. He wants to outlaw festival seating at the Salt Palace.
"I teach high school kids," he said. "The game plan (at concerts) is as soon as the lights are dimmed, they all charge up front. That's a given procedure.
"Even if this tragedy hadn't occurred, we need to do something to keep it from ever occurring."
But Mayor Palmer DePaulis urged caution, saying it is wrong to blame festival seating until the investigation is completed. "Something else may have been the problem," he said.
Bradley, in a meeting with reporters Tuesday morning, also was cautious in blaming the lack of seats. He said seats on an arena floor do not guarantee safety.
"In L.A. they put seats on the floor and the kids throw the seats aside," Bradley said. "They become lethal objects. Seating alone is not the solution."
Meanwhile, ATCO Records in New York City issued a statement on behalf of AC/DC Tuesday, expressing concern and sympathy for the families of the victims.
The band also denied reports from witnesses that it continued playing despite being asked to stop when the incident occurred.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," the statement said. "AC/DC has cooperated fully with Salt Lake officials investigating the circumstances of this tragedy and will continue to do so. The events of this calamity occurred in a very quick time frame. Once the gravity of the situation was communicated to the band, they immediately discontinued their performance."
The statement said lead-singer Brian Johnson appealed to the crowd to clear the area. The band decided to continue the concert after consulting with the fire marshal.
"This decision was motivated in order to maintain calm and order among the thousands of fans who were unaware of what had occurred."
Officials from Spectacor said Tuesday they are reserving comment on what happened during the concert until they have collected facts.
"Part of the reason we haven't said anything is there's so much conflicting information out there," said Eric Yailler, director of marketing.
Bradley said he does not want to cancel all heavy-metal concerts. "Something is happening with youths. They need to feel part of a movement, part of an event. I don't totally understand. It doesn't just happen at AC/DC concerts. It happens at British soccer games."
Other than cancelling all concerts, Bradley said he believes the county has two options when it comes to dealing with seating arrangements. It can put seats on the floor or it can ban all people from the floor.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom said he will review the interviews done by his staff and by Salt Lake police before deciding how to proceed with the investigation.
The crowd of 13,294 at the concert was 626 below arena capacity, according to Spectacor. Officials said the staff included 203 security people.
Local concert promoter Scott Arnold said a blanket ban on festival seating at all concerts would be short-sighted and reactionary.
"People will not stay seated whether they have seats or not," he said. "Rock music by and large is geared for people to get up and dance."
Although Arnold said the deaths are extremely tragic and unfortunate, he hopes those investigating the incident and the policy of festival seating will look at all aspects before making a decision.
"There's a big distinction between big arena shows and small and medium-sized shows, which is what I specialize in. It's easier to control," he said.
Several of Arnold's shows in the upcoming weeks are scheduled at the State Fairpark Horticulture Building and all tickets are general admission.
Another thing to remember is that not all concert crowds are going to act in the same way, Arnold said. Many people see no distinction between hard rock, heavy metal, modern music, rap and other bands, but each type of band attracts a different kind of audience. And heavy metal bands such as AC/DC attract some of the most difficult kinds of audiences to control, he said.
"There are certain distinctions that need to be taken into account and different kinds of audiences."
Financially, a ban on festival seating could seriously hurt his business and future concerts in general. "Maybe it would put me out of business. I don't know," Arnold said.