The Who concert disaster
U.S. Bank Arena (formerly the Riverfront Coliseum) in 2005
|Date||December 3, 1979|
|Location||Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA|
The Who concert disaster took place at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 3, 1979, as part of the band's U.S. tour, the first in three years and their first performance in Cincinnati since 1975. Eleven fans (Teva Ladd, 27; Walter Adams, Jr., 22; James Warmoth, 21; Phillip Snyder, 20; David Heck, 19; Tyler Corcoram, 19; Peter Bowes, 18; Connie Burns, 18; Bryan Wagner, 17; Karen Morrison, 15; and Jacqueline Eckerle, 15) were killed by compressive asphyxia. Twenty-three other fans were injured in the rush for seating at the opening of the sold-out concert.
Attending the performance were a total of 18,348 ticketed fans. Just 3,578 of the tickets were for reserved seats, while 14,770 tickets were for unassigned seats or general admission, also known as festival seating. The benefit of unassigned seating is that a concertgoer could get a great seat, if he or she was determined enough to either arrive early, or push to the front; however, this proved deadly on the night of the concert. Many fans arrived early, and waited outside the Riverfront Coliseum in bitter-cold conditions. As the crowd heard the band performing a late sound check, many mistakenly believed the concert was beginning. This began a rush toward the entryway doors from the back of the crowd, causing some at the front of the crowd to be trampled as those pushing from behind were unaware the doors were still closed. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that only a few doors were in operation that night. According to some reports, the building management had limited the number of entryways due to union restrictions, as well as concern for concertgoers sneaking past the ticket turnstiles. The band members of The Who only learned what had happened after their performance ended.  The families of the victims sued the band, concert promoter Electric Factory Concerts, and the city of Cincinnati. The suits were settled in 1983, awarding each of the families of the deceased approximately $150,000, and approximately $750,000 to be divided among the 23 injured. The city of Cincinnati also imposed a ban on festival seating, with minor exceptions, for the next 25 years.
The incident was the subject of a book, Are The Kids All Right? The Rock Generation And Its Hidden Death Wish, as well as a second-season episode of WKRP in Cincinnati called "In Concert". It also inspired scenes in the film Pink Floyd—The Wall, whose 1982 premiere was attended by The Who's Pete Townshend.
In 2004, the city of Cincinnati permanently repealed its long-standing ban on festival seating, a move which has been criticized by some. The goal of lifting the ban was to attract more big-name acts. However, the city now mandates there must be nine square feet per person at a venue, and the number of tickets sold for each event is adjusted accordingly.
No memorial was ever erected at the stadium for the victims of one of the then-deadliest concert disasters in American history.
Paul Wertheimer, the city's first Public Information Officer at the time of the tragedy, and only two years older than the oldest victim, went on to serve on a task force on crowd control, and later founded Crowd Management Strategies in 1992, a consulting firm based in Los Angeles.
- Johnson, Norris R. "Panic at 'The Who Concert Stampede': An Empirical Assessment." Social Problems. Vol. 34, No. 4 (October 1987):362-73
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- "Cincinnati Council Repeals festival seating ban". Enquirer.com. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- "Cincinnati Enquirer, 8 August 2002 Bruce Springsteen Concert (editorial)" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- John Grant Fuller. "Are the kids all right?: The rock generation and its hidden death wish". Google Books. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Miles, Barry; Mabbett, Andy (1994). Pink Floyd the visual documentary. London: Omnibus. ISBN 0711941092.
- "Memories of Who concert tragedy linger". Cincinnati.com. December 2, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- "Crowd Management Strategies". Crowdsafe.com. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- "WEBN's 2009 retrospective of the event". YouTube. December 2, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-05.