Saving Seats Epidemic

Overall I believe most people’s championship experience was a positive one but there is one issue that we still need to fix as a community. Saving Seats! As members of an organization devoted to changing culture, the process of acquiring seating should not resemble a Black Friday sale in any way.

I understand the desire to keep your scouting/cheering team centrally located but sectioning off a segment of the stands is not the way to do it. In fact FIRST has specifically prohibited it in section 4.14 of the manual (note the bold underlined part).

Sitting together in a group during competition matches makes the game more exciting and fun. It’s where you can show support for your team. Since very often there is not enough seating to accommodate everyone, there has to be a policy regarding seating. **Teams are not allowed to save seating space. **

With this in mind, it is not permitted to hang banners or ribbons to designate such an area. We will remove and discard any banners, roping, etc… Please take turns sitting in the bleachers, if seating is limited. Share the fun. When you see there is a crowding problem, leave after your team’s match and return later for another few matches.

Not to single the above team out but they were just the most visual example of what was happening. My own team anticipated the seating shortage and woke the entire team up at 5 and bussed to the venue to be in line by 6. When the doors were opened imagine our dismay when there were groups of four trying to reserve seats, in one case four individuals were trying to keep over 80 seats. I instructed my team to sit on the border between two of these groups as we had the entire team there and they did not. The situation became very confrontational and concerned some of the students. The team who felt their space was being stolen then informed me that my team and I were being not graciously professional as attempt to get their way, to which I replied that there is no saving of seats. In talking with them later, in a much calmer state, they said that they only section off their portion of the stands because they saw another team doing it last year. We need to stop this trend from continuing to grow further and we need to stop playing the GP card in an attempt to get our way. Hopefully we can find a solution in a non-inflammatory manner.

FIRST needs to either allow seats to be reserved or implement a better system. This “Black Friday Epidemic” can be truly frustrating!

Copied from another thread:

We’ve run into this problem also. At Palmetto, there were 61 teams and hardly any seats, so there were many who acted ungraciously and darted in front of everyone, even going so far as taking other team’s seats. What made this worse it the fact that no team was allowed to reserve seats for the next day (though many did it anyways), so this was a daily occurrence. We did not care so much about where we sat as ling as we all could sit together, but with a medium-sized teams with many parents, siblings, and mentors, this was nearly impossible.

At North Carolina, we had a similar issue, but thankfully Team 3196 kindly allowed us to use their empty seats before eliminations. Afterwards, however, our team was unable to sit together as we made a run to finals, which was rather frustrating.

It is probably up to the respective regional directors, but I hope this issue could be resolved at one point.

As mentioned in this comment, saving seats is really bad for spectators. How can anyone be expected to attend an event if the only space in the stands is for people specifically associated with teams? Maybe having a sort of “scouting/media” section reserved for 5-10 members of each team would allow the rest of the stands to be clear of clutter and blocked off sections. Thoughts?

It’s an extremely tough problem - once somebody starts doing it, pretty much everyone else has to do the same in order to keep up and have somewhere to sit.

I think the quick answer is that if you’re going to save seats, you’ve got to do it the hard way - by putting bodies in them.

Oh, the seat-savers were out in full force on Galileo and I wanted to pull my hair out at how unbearable some were.

I would like to take this time to thank 1114 and 610 for “doing it right”. Both of those teams were doubtlessly awake before the sun even rose on the East Coast, and they took up as many seats as needed by their team because all of their members were actually present.

Like I said in another thread, teams need to educate everyone on their team concerning all of the rules, including parents on this specific rule.

Also, I know for the VA regional, there was a supervisor who seemed especially designated to prevent seat saving, even to the point where he wanted us to not not have anything in seats to give off the appearance we were saving seats. I guess you could have a volunteer babysit the stands, but really, if we need a volunteer to babysit the stands we have a bigger problem.

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At the 2011 Championship, I encountered a VERY rude mentor/parent/adult from a team who was reserving 5 entire rows on the lower level in front of the Einstein stage. I, along with 2 of my students had rushed from our pit to the stands for the opening ceremonies. We saw plenty of open seats in the “reserved” section and sat at the upper corner edge, as there were very few other seats available.

This particular person came up, yelling and screaming at us that the seats had been reserved. I calmly stated to her that seats could not be reserved and that we were not moving. My students had no idea what to do, but I firmly repeated my statement. I look young, so I assume she figured I was just a kid with some attitude problem. The situation was never resolved, but she threw up her hands and gave up.

THEN, an elderly lady came down the aisle and took a seat at the edge of the “reserved” section. The same woman came back with a vengence, and I swear, I saw rabid foaming of the mouth. She yelled and screamed at this elderly woman (who, I might add threw back some hilarious responses, including how “un-GP” the screaming woman was).

Thankfully, another mentor from the team came and grabbed the woman and diffused the situation, telling her it was ok to let us sit in those seats. Eventually, the rest of the team arrived to claim their “reserved” seats, and managed to consolidate into TWO rows.

Because of this incident, I instruct ALL my students that seats may not be reserved and make sure they all can quote the section of the administrative manual (4.14) stating this.

Now, I’m not advocating being rude and targeting spaces that are blocked off by other teams, but when there is truly no other place to go, don’t feel bad about sitting in their reserved section. The rules, and GP are on your side.

How are we going to solve this issue?

A formal lottery for reserving/swapping seats with teams of a similar size after matches?
Moving the events to bigger venues with more seating?
Limit the amount of people each team can seat to a max number based on the venue size (team members/mentors/parents take turns)?
All of the above?
Leave the chaos as-is?

1114 and 610 (and 118 as well) did “do it right”, and not only because they showed up early and had their entire team grab seats. They also, if they had any open seats, would allow spectators, such as myself and other members of my team, to sit among them. I was gifted the chance to sit with all three of those amazing teams, and made many friends while I was at it. It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

If you are saving seats and a spectator wants to sit there, follow these team’s examples, as it will most likely be a very rewarding experience for not only yourself, but for the spectator!

As one way to help the problem I think a reminder to not reserve/save seats be sent in the FIRST email, team update before week 1 events, and Frank’s FRC Blog would be a few simple ways to alert teams. It is clear having it in the administrative manual is simply not enough because not everyone reads it.

Aside from literally ticketing seats, does anyone have observations or best practices from other events that involve “first come, first serve” seating? Not sure what kind of events those might be, but I think we need something better than what we have. At the same time I think it’s vital that the ability for teams to sit and cheer together be maintained.

It’s mentioned in the email sent out to teams every week during competition.

The most important part for our team is getting seats that are good enough for the scouting team. Our spectators and spirit crew can find a seat somewhere (especially at champs) with a less ideal view of the field.

I think this could be a great idea. Having a section of seats in ideal viewing location that is reserved for scouting teams and media people.
This would (for us at least) remove a lot of the stress that comes from needing to have a set of seats for the scouts.

That being said, that wouldn’t solve every issue. Especially when you’re talking about regionals with limited seating. The Connecticut regional has limited seating for the 56 teams that attended this year, and it becomes difficult to find enough seats for our entire team to sit. The scouting section idea might actually hurt here, as not as many teams scout at regionals as the teams that scout at worlds.

An announcement each morning during a regional could help prevent people from saving seats. I think that many people are not aware of the rule. Even people who are doing it with full knowledge of the rule may stop and think about it before saving seats.

-Mihir Iyer

I think the GP card could go either way. Yeah your taking their seats that they are trying so hard to defend, but they are trying to save seats with almost no one there.

At SVR I talked to a rookie mentor from another team, and he mentioned to me how ungraciously professional he thought the pink team was for taking up half the stands in the center section of the stadium. “Their spirit people take up the same amount of room as the scouts from 20 other teams.” he said. Its an interesting thought, 90% of their seats went to cheerers who loved to stand and block the view of people behind them, but they did get there first. I only mention the identity of this team because they ironically won the championship Gracious Professionalism award.

So it begs the question, what is more graciously professional? Is it, “we only need these higher quality seats for our scouts”, or “they got their first so we should respect their right to take up as many seats as they can”?

We went to a Christmas program at a church once, as visitors. They had stated the time the program started, and when doors opened. We arrived a few minutes before the doors opened, and when let in found that all the good seats had been covered with coats to be reserved by church members. We never returned to that church.

Is that the image we want of FIRST? When the public come in, they are rudely told they can’t sit here because it’s reserved for a team? I wouldn’t return.

I think one possibility, specifically at internationals, would be for FIRST to reserve about 6 seats for each team towards the center of the field. The rest of the seats would be first come first serve. This way every team would have a good view of the field for scouting and such. Everyone is racing to get these center seats so I think every team should be given a certain number of them.

If your average team needs ~10 people to scout, and there are 60 teams at a regional, what you end up with is 600 people redundantly recording what is mostly the same data.
If, somehow, everyone could agree on a scouting standard before they show up at the regional, you could have a representative from every team do all the scouting, and it could probably be uploaded to a neutral location on the web. Then, any fancy metrics/calculations that a team are doing just have to be set up to pull information from that neutral source.
Thus the need to sit in the bleachers and be together the whole event is alleviated for most teams.

Now, how do you get everyone to agree on a scouting standard? Well, for one the regional committee could hold a meeting 2 weeks before the event where everyone shares what data they need for scouting. It would not take much to hash out, as every year almost everyone’s scouting sheets contain the same data.

Hey guys. I’m from 1732. Those are our seat savers. Please let me explain.

I know they’re bad. I know you don’t like them. WE don’t like them.

We simply didn’t see any alternatives. As a team sending 84 (!) people down to St. Louis this year, we were unsure as to what our course of action should be. At the Wisconsin and Boilermaker Regionals we kept a general area of seating “reserved” by leaving piles of stuff there, rendering many seats useless, leading to people’s things being stepped on, and, inevitable, losing things. We did, in the process, create a space for the scouts, spirit team, parents, mentors, and guests that came along. Unfortunately, we always had people sitting alone. We’ve struggled with seating for the past few years that I’ve been on the team, always ending up spread out. As a last resort, and after seeing many other teams to so, we opted for these felt, rubber band, and sticker combinations.

I never saw anyone who wasn’t on our team shooed out of one of the marked seats. I remember, possibly the day that photo was taken, giving up entire rows because of the outrage over our seat savers. On Saturday we didn’t bring them. We learned our lesson and sent half of the team to the venue really early.

I apologize.

1306 is working on this :smiley:

Anyone interested should check out this thread

We rolled out the CrowdScout system at the Wisconsin Regional, and in Curie Division this year, and it worked wonderfully, so we will definitely be continuing development of the system (streamlining data entry, making things easier for teams), and the organization around it (deciding on what data is needed, etc.)

At the Minnesota Regionals the first few rows of the center section of seats were reserved for teams. Each team got two seats for scouting, the team number was placed on each seat which was nice. It gave every team an opportunity to use the two seats to scout, record matches or even just sit and watch matches. It was nice because each team knew that they had these two seats and didn’t have to worry about saving the seats. I know most teams need more than two scouters but I think it helped at our regionals.