A giveaway of hundreds of Pro Bowl tickets grew tense yesterday after frustrated ticket seekers learned fewer were available than advertised.
Friends of the Library of Hawaii, a nonprofit that raises money for the state’s libraries, learned Thursday afternoon that one of its volunteers with an NFL contact received 500 tickets for the group. The nonprofit announced that day that it would give those tickets away at the main library on Friday, said Friends of the Library Executive Director Byrde Cestare.
But the group offered tickets to its volunteers first, and about 280 accepted, including 130 high school football players who had volunteered for a book sale fundraiser. Cestare said she offered the tickets to the 700 to 1,000 volunteers because they do the bulk of the work for the organization, which has only three full-time staff.
The line started growing at about 10 a.m., said Sterling Mahelona Jr., who arrived at 8 p.m. Thursday and was the first to get a ticket.
Sometime after noon the nonprofit started handing out numbered tickets to prevent people from jumping in line and had counted 220 people by 2:30 p.m. — the time the giveaway was supposed to begin. About 200 people without tickets remained in line outside the library.
Karen Lovell, who did not get a ticket, stuck around to watch the people who would not leave after being told the tickets were gone.
"Very ignorant," she said. "Had some people yelling by the door. That was too much."
Aaron B., who did not give his last name because he had taken off work, wanted tickets for himself and his two sons, whom he had taken out of school to stand in line with him.
"Times are tough right now," he said. "A lot of people can’t afford it."
But after learning the tickets were gone by 2:30 p.m., he said the group should not have announced it had 500 tickets available.
"It was disheartening," he said. "They’re leaving with a bad taste in their mouth."
Cestare said the group was rushed, but acknowledged it could have done better, such as notifying the public that its volunteers would get the opportunity for a ticket first.
"I apologize we didn’t have a better system," she said.