Fayette County

University of Kentucky opens Commonwealth Stadium to Pokémon Go players

Pokémon Go players in Commonwealth Stadium

Pokémon Go players recounted their experience of playing the game at the stadium.
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Pokémon Go players recounted their experience of playing the game at the stadium.

About 80 people stood outside the gates of Commonwealth Stadium at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday, all waiting for the magic time when the gates would open.

At 4:30 on the dot, the crowd scrambled in with one thought in mind: to catch ’em all.

The University of Kentucky allowed players of the popular mobile game Pokémon Go the chance to play on the stadium’s field Wednesday.

UK Athletics spokesman Guy Ramsey said that because so many people are playing the game, the athletics department saw an opportunity for community outreach. Officials for other football teams, including Nebraska and Texas A&M, have opened up their stadiums for Pokémon Go.

UK said 1,366 Pokémon Go players came out Wednesday. The crowd included young and old, families and individuals.

Erica Daniels, 27, of Winchester, was there playing the game with her 7-year-old son Aiden.

Daniels referred to herself as a “Gen One-er,” meaning she had been playing Pokémon games since the first generation of games. (The Pokémon franchise is entering its seventh generation of games.)

Daniels said her son has autism. The game requires players to walk outside to progress, and that’s a sort of physical therapy for Aiden, Daniels said. She said the game also has helped with his social anxiety.

Pokémon Go has helped with his social anxiety, from his autism

Erica Daniels, 27, Winchester native, about her son Aiden

As Pokémon Go encourages people to get out and meet one another, the unreliability of the game’s servers remains a problem. Many at Commonwealth were having difficulty with the servers and so were unable to play.

Nintendo’s stock has risen 120 percent since the release of Pokémon Go

Kotaku, a news and opinion website about games, said that most popular games stabilize themselves a few days after release, but Pokémon Go has gotten worse.

Sam Stephenson, 11, stood in the stadium with a plush Bulbasaur in one hand and his phone in the other as he waited for the servers to come back online.

Stephenson, who is at level 17 in the game, said he spends one to 2  1/2 hours playing each day.

Not everyone at the stadium, however, was as experienced as Stephenson.

30 million worldwide downloads of Pokémon Go since its launch

Early Wednesday was the first time Lexington native Rebecca Richardson, 47, had played. She said she has learned the game with help from her nephews and daughter.

Richardson said she’s eager to continue to play, but she plans to avoid doing anything extreme.

“Because my sister was like, ‘Make sure you stay safe,’ and stuff like that, and I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna go out into the woods by myself or anything crazy like that, OK?’” Richardson said.