The advance advisories from Aloha Stadium this week suggested a considerable amount of logistical planning had gone into preparing for last night’s highly anticipated Bruno Mars landing, but there was no telling how things would actually unfold until the anticipated madness ensued — or didn’t.
Despite dire predictions that Mars’ first concert in Hawaii in four years — and his first ever at Aloha Stadium — would result in the roadway equivalent of Black Friday at Walmart, the traffic situation in and around Aloha Stadium was remarkably smooth in the hours leading up to the show.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Jeff Camacho, 37, who drove in from Ewa with wife Amber and their 12-year-old daughter, Ella. “I thought it would take at least an hour to get here, but it only took us five to 10 minutes.”
Camacho said he was further surprised to find acres of stadium parking still available nearly an hour after the lot opened shortly after 3 p.m. With no attendants directing the incoming traffic, Camacho found himself free to snag a prime space near the exit.
“Guaranteed, a lot of planning went into this,” he said, appreciatively. “Things just flowed.”
The sentiment was echoed throughout the stadium and surrounding areas, a testament both to the stadium’s advance communications and the crowd’s own efforts to plan ahead.
Some 36,000 ticket holders converged on the stadium for the first of three concerts the Hawaii-born Mars is scheduled to perform. Early on, many eschewed the $16-per-car stadium parking in favor of the ample (and cheaper) alternative parking sites in the area.
Raydeen Delos Santos, 49, of Mililani and her best friend, Judy Kitsu, 59, of Manoa, arranged to meet at Moanalua High School, where $10 bought a parking space and shuttle service to and from the stadium.
Delos Santos, a die-hard devotee, had previously seen Mars perform in Las Vegas and was eager for another dose of his slick showmanship and positive pop sound. Kitsu, a more casual fan, said she blasted Mars’ “24 Karat Magic” CD on the drive over to be sure she was properly prepared for her first Mars show.
“Everybody loves that he’s from Hawaii,” Kitsu said. “But what I also like is the way he blends Michael Jackson, doo-wop, soul, R&B, reggae — it’s a magical mixture.”
Cy and Don Domingo of Salt Lake took the shuttle from Aliamanu Elementary near their home to the stadium and arrived just a few minutes before the gates opened. Like others seated along the low wall leading up to the main box office, they too were taken aback by the relative lack of stress involved with getting to their destination.
“Look how much parking there still is,” said Cy Domingo, 43, as she gestured to the largely empty lower Halawa lot.
Across Salt Lake Boulevard at Stadium Marketplace, concertgoers not yet ready to enter the more restrictive environs of the stadium, where a strict ban on tailgating and outside food and drink was being enforced, made a de facto staging area of the small lot between McDonald’s and Starbucks.
If the scene there was any indication, Mars’ three-night stand at the stadium will be a boon for neighboring businesses. An hour before the start of the concert, a snaking, 60-deep line overran the Starbucks seating and counter areas. The crowd was even more voluminous at McDonald’s, where nearly 100 people filled the dining room and spilled out onto the grass and pavement outside.
Fourteen-year-old Courtland Clever took in the scene as he sat on the curb of a walkway nearby, munching a Foodland sandwich and slurping a half-melted Icee.
He and his mother, Kelly Clever, a serious Mars fan, had flown in from Hilo the evening prior and were scheduled to leave on a Friday red-eye. Anticipating heavy traffic, they didn’t bother getting a rental car and instead took a bus to the stadium.
A rock and metal fan with an appreciation for well-crafted pop songs, Courtland Clever said he was looking forward to what was to be his first-ever concert.
“I have no base line for this kind of thing,” he said. “I expect to be uncomfortable for four hours but get some slight amount of happiness during the actual concert. It’ll be mostly a bragging thing for me. I’ll be able to tell people that I was there.”
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