Loughnane: "Our mission is to protect our guests, players, coaches, officials and staff."
By Andy Loughnane
I would like to start by thanking the 21,051 supporters that attended last Saturday’s sellout match against the LA Galaxy. As many of you in attendance or in the area know, our region endured thunderstorms on Saturday evening during the scheduled timeslot for the contest. The storm ultimately resulted in a rain delay of 2 hours and 15 minutes. There have been questions and concerns raised since the delay was initiated and I want to spend a moment this afternoon revisiting Saturday to simply stress that, above all, our mission is to protect our guests, players, coaches, officials and staff.
Weather delays can become an unfortunate reality for outdoor events. Our team and our staff want nothing more than to start at the scheduled kickoff time, and furthermore we recognize that weather delays can provide an inconvenience. Our sport provides unparalleled theatre, however one thing all open-air venues must safeguard against is the emergence of lightning and severe weather.
As the original kickoff time approached, our weather intelligence indicated that there was a high probability that a thunderstorm – with lightning – would travel directly in the vicinity of MAPFRE Stadium. In particular, we were concerned with the lightning strikes that were hitting the ground as part of this storm. Our Command Center is equipped with weather technology that can track each lightning strike and it became very evident that lightning would travel inside of the radius that MAPFRE Stadium defines as threatening. Once lightning strikes crossed into our protective boundary, we immediately reached consensus with local officials to make the announcement for all guests to take shelter in our approved protective zones. At this point, we initiated a delay in the start of the match.
Although raindrops did not immediately fall on MAPFRE Stadium, there were constant lightning strikes hitting the ground within an unsafe distance of MAPFRE Stadium. Although I appreciate the questions that have been raised as to why we did not start the match immediately at 7:30 p.m. with no rain overhead, the fact of the matter is that rain alone is not the single determining factor for guest/player safety. Ultimately the lightning struck the ground within one (1) mile of MAPFRE Stadium (and eventually rain directly overhead) and our protocols and safety measures to protect our guests to the best of our ability were in place.
The length of the delay was a function of the speed of this particular storm and the proximity of lightning strikes. Meteorological records will support that this storm moved slowly through our radius and was accompanied by lightning during the entirety of the delay. I know that information can’t return two-plus hours of your Saturday waiting for soccer, but it is important to note that as soon as the lightning strikes (not the raindrops) departed our protective boundary we made a call in conjunction with local officials, MLS League office, and LA Galaxy to start the match at 9:45pm after a mandatory warmup period was completed. We successfully prepared the pitch for matchplay and completed a 90+ minute contest on Saturday evening.
As we continue this early-summer homestand, it should be known that we took the safety and security of our guests into consideration as our number one priority on Saturday and our enacting of severe weather protocol was justified in light of the severity of the storm that traveled in our path. I know the delay was a frustrating one, but as you know the speed and behavior of storms can change without notice. Had we indicated that the storm would last for a specific duration we would have all been wrong because this particular storm moved slower than anticipated.
I want to close by thanking our supporters for your feedback and successful implementation of the safety protocol, including your patience during the delay. Each match is an opportunity to enhance the guest experience, so please know that we are grateful for your support and we look forward to welcoming you back in the near future.