By Steve DeMots, SVP Business Development, Tickets.com
Where were you September 11, 2001?
I was at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa outside of Miami, where the IAAM Arena Managers Conference was being held that year. I remember that it was a Tuesday morning, and it looked like it was going to be a decent day- which was good because the conference golf tournament was that day. We were going to play the Blue Monster, the famed golf course at Doral, and it had been raining for days. I remember getting ready and turning on the news, which I never do, and Katie Couric was talking about a small plane that had mistakenly hit one of the Twin Towers. Then all of a sudden, while I was standing there, another plane hit the other tower.
Stunned, but still thinking these were accidents because that is all that Katie could come up with, I gathered my things and went to join the rest of my industry friends and acquaintances on the driving range. You have to remember that we lived in the dark ages before smart phones and wireless Internet, so we all stood around, talking about what was going on- and getting updates from latecomers. It was all speculation at the time, but the reality of what was going on was starting to set in. Amazingly, after what must have been a discussion, someone made the decision that the golf tournament was still going to be held. We started playing, oblivious to what was really going on- until the phone calls started coming in. A worried spouse, a frantic venue operations manager, and in some cases someone who was actually in one of the buildings. Someone in my foursome was truly talking to someone who was running down the stairs of one of the towers. I didn’t know it at the time, but my cousin was in the Pentagon, fortunately on the other side of the building. I don’t know if anyone finished 18 holes that day, my group didn’t. We headed back to the club house with sick feelings in our stomach and joined others around the TV- and didn’t move for hours.
There we were, about a hundred entertainment industry veterans, all down in Miami- far away from everything. It took a while for the reality to sink in- then the warnings were being issued, flights were being canceled indefinitely, trains were stopped, cell phone traffic was jammed- and we realized this was something that was going to affect us all. The ones who were on top of things started reserving rental cars, or planning to use the cars they had already to get home. It wasn’t long before there were no more cars to rent. You can imagine the stories- of folks from Atlanta sharing a rental car with someone from Cleveland, because it was “on the way”. Five people piling in a compact for a drive to California. For me, single and without any place I really needed to be, there were far worse places to be than at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Everyone was trying to leave, and no one was coming in. My room was upgraded to a suite with a view of the 18th green of the Blue Monster. Three of the four courses were wide open to us- we just grabbed golf carts and played as much as we felt like, which wasn’t that much. But most of the time we sat in the area outside of the restaurant, where there were a number of TVs’- just watching it all and soaking it in.
After a few days, some flights began to open up, and the rest of us started leaving. I was on one of the first flights out of Miami, a Continental flight that had about 10 people on it. As I looked down as the plane lifted off the ground, I knew I would always remember this particular Arena Managers Conference, and those that I shared the experience with.