Dear JPJ Arena: I want a refund. Here’s why.

Management
John Paul Jones Arena
PO Box 400862
Charlottesville, VA. 22904-4862

My wife and I paid $130 to see the Dave Matthews Band at John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 20. We had to leave ten minutes into the show because of the unbearable haze of marijuana smoke. I would like my money back.

Since the JPJ arena opened, we have attended a number of events, including concerts by other big-name acts such as Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, and even Jon Stewart. We were very excited about finally seeing Dave Matthews in concert.

From the abundance of alcohol in the parking lot, it was clear that a lot of people were there to party and not necessarily to listen to the music. However, my concerns about what it might be like in the arena were assuaged by the heavy security. Everybody was patted down and a security officer even made me throw away a little 4-oz. bottle of water that I was carrying. My wife, who is getting over a cold, had to empty her pockets of tissues.

The random seat assignment had placed us very high up in row V, which was further from the stage than we had ever been before. That aside, the opening act was great, we had a decent view, and we were energized just to be there.

But all of that excitement degenerated within moments after Dave Matthews came on stage and we were immediately enveloped in a heavy and inescapable fog of marijuana smoke. I have asthma and, although it is normally manageable, I could not tolerate the sheer density of this smoke. I covered my mouth and nose with a cloth at first, hoping that the smoke would lift, but after just two songs I had to leave.

We found a police officer in the lobby, told him our seat numbers, and he and his partner went to look. They came back a few minutes later and told us that so many people were smoking there was no way they could identify individuals. The officer apologized, but said that it had been the same the night before.

I found an arena employee and asked if we could possibly sit further down where, I hoped, the smoke would not be as bad, but she told me that we could only sit in the seats assigned to us. We then tried standing just inside one of the entrances in our section so we could at least see and hear the concert, but the stench was too much and we had to go outside.

I am deeply disappointed by this entire experience, and the root of my dissatisfaction is with JPJ. I have spent enough time at raucous outdoor concerts to know what to expect in those settings. But when the John Paul Jones Arena first opened, we were promised a friendly venue that would benefit the entire community. Now I would have to be persuaded to ever set foot inside again.

I am appalled that your security prevented us from carrying in perfectly legal items such as water (I could not even bring in my emptied container, though I was welcome to pay $4 for bottled water once inside), while other concert-goers were able to bring illegal substances into the arena. This was security theater only, and it created an unhealthy and inhospitable environment which drove out law-abiding citizens.

We were seated in section 311, row V, seats 3 and 4. I paid $65 for each ticket. I would like a full refund of $130.