For Edith Belitza, from Muncie, Friday night’s Elton John concert at Gainbridge Fieldhouse was “a lifetime dream” for her and her wife.
“We definitely put money aside for that,” Belitza said in a phone call on Saturday. “We don’t usually spend $1,000 on two tickets. We are both retired teachers.”
When she presented her tickets at an upstairs entrance, Belitza was told they were invalid. She was sent downstairs to the box office, where apparently a mass of people had suffered the same fate.
An hour and 45 minutes later, with a little less than half of John’s show already over, her unobstructed balcony seats were suddenly converted to backstage seats where she could only see a small screen and the back of John’s head.
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As this was the 75-year-old singer’s farewell tour, she and others are unlikely to return.
The Fieldhouse released a statement late Friday night, noting that the show had a number of postponements and the venue has since begun a remodeling project that impacted seating.
“We have communicated regularly with ticket holders, those impacted by the seating reconfiguration, and we have deployed additional staff at the box office and in our guest services in anticipation of a large number of issues. We apologize to fans who were delayed in entering the show or had issues with their seats.”
John’s performance was pushed back to Friday several times from October 2019.
It’s unclear exactly how many people were affected by the ticketing issues.
IndyStar reached out to Gainbridge Saturday afternoon for further comment on the seating issues.
Belitza called the sound quality at her seats “terrible,” and she didn’t get a look at John’s elaborate staging or the video vignettes that accompanied many of his songs. She has since received a refund for her purchase from StubHub.
Jim Fangman and his wife drove from Batesville, about an hour southeast of Indianapolis, for the show, he said Saturday. They bought a pair of tickets for about $750 as a 2018 Christmas gift and later spent an estimated $300 on hotel, food and gas expenses.
The couple arrived at 6:30pm and their tickets were voided. They waited first in one row, then another, before reaching a cashier, whose seats Fangman said were among those reconfigured during the remodel.
Gainbridge was unable to link Fangman’s tickets to Vivid Seats, a third-party resale company, because they appear to have been bought and sold by a broker through Vivid, Fangman said he was told.
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He contacted Vivid, but the company couldn’t find the broker. After attempting several other fixes and being denied new seats by the venue, the pair quit around 9pm
Fangman said he previously received emails following several show postponements confirming his tickets would be redeemed — and no notification of the need for new seats due to remodeling.
In response to an IndyStar request, Vivid Seats said Fangman would be reimbursed. Fangman confirmed his refund.
At 7:45 p.m. Friday, 15 minutes before the performance began, hundreds struggled to connect to the box office.
Some, like Belitza, had bought their tickets through third parties like StubHub, others through Gainbridge. Some had bought tickets years in advance, others earlier this week. Several frustrated would-be concert-goers announced they were leaving and demanding a refund.
Taking to Twitter, Meghan Gray shared a similar story and photos, saying she was seated backstage as she freely bought tickets on the other side of the venue.
Belitza and others on social media said the number of people who were late was more likely 1,000 or more people.
Rory Appleton is a pop culture reporter for IndyStar. Contact him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.