SBD/February 7, 2011/Events and Attractions

Cowboys Stadium Seating Debacle Leaves 400 Fans Without Seats For Super Bowl

Stadium workers blocked off, covered empty temporary seating sections
Four hundred fans with tickets to Super Bowl XLV last night "were left without seats" after a "limited number of sections in temporary seating areas at Cowboys Stadium were not completed in time," according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN DALLAS. Two hours before the game, workers "were frantically trying to fix the sections or get the fans 'relocated to similar or better seats,' valued at $800." Stadium workers "were covering the top corner sections of the upper deck behind one end zone two hours prior to kickoff." The NFL "found alternate seating for 850 of the 1,250 fans affected," and the 400 who were not able to be seated "were given a refund of triple face value -- $2,400." The NFL "tried to placate those 400 fans, taking them inside the stadium to watch the game on monitors in the North Field Club behind the Pittsburgh bench." The fans also "had the option of viewing the game from standing-room platforms in each corner of the stadium." Those fans "will still get the triple refund." McMahon reported the game drew 103,219 fans, "just shy of the 103,985 mark set in Super Bowl XIV." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy confirmed that the "seating debacle was the reason the attendance record was not set ... based on the 850 seats that were forfeited by the NFL and Cowboys to make room for those who were relocated." Meanwhile, four gates into the stadium were closed "because of lingering ice on the roof of the stadium." The Arlington Police Department "requested additional officers to the East Plaza ticket offices after the crowd started to become unruly" prior to the game, as "ticket scanners weren't functioning." There were chants of "Jerry Sucks!" and "NFL Sucks!" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/6).

WHO'S TO BLAME?
In Ft. Worth, Ahles & Schrock note it was "not immediately clear who was to blame," and the NFL promised to "conduct a full review of this matter." North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee President & CEO Bill Lively said that the problem "unfolded over a month and evolved into late-night discussions Saturday, less than 24 hours before kickoff." Hundreds of ticket holders in Sections 425A-430A "were told that their seats were not available and that they would have to settle for a refund." Temporary sections "above the west end zone and along the main concourse were blocked off, the seats covered with black sheeting," and "in other areas, metal handrails were loose." Two temporary staircases leading to sections 425A and 430A "were roped off." Tom Pingel, a fan who was left without a seat, said, "You'd think the fire marshal would have made this determination before today" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7). A police officer near one of the roped-off areas said that the seats "had been installed in six temporary sections, but they went up so late that the fire marshal didn't have time to inspect them." The officer said that the "winter storms that struck Dallas earlier had set back work on the temporary seats." The AP's Aron, Hawkins & Daley noted organizers "were hoping flawless game-day logistics would wipe out some of the complaints" about the weather earlier in the week, but the seating problem "could be an issue in the area's plans to bid for" Super Bowl L in '16 (AP, 2/6).

FIRE MARSHALL HAD "NO ROLE": Arlington Police spokesperson Tiara Richard said that the "city's fire marshal 'played no role' in deciding that the unfinished seats would not be used because the NFL never asked the city to inspect those." Richard: "That was all the NFL's call. The fire marshal had no participation in the seats that were not completed. The fire marshal only inspected the seats that were completed." In Dallas, Scott Farwell reports an "undisclosed number of Cowboys employees gave up their seats" to some of the paying fans who did not have a place to sit (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/7). In N.Y., Cannizzaro & Li report NFL officials "promised that the displaced 400 would be supplied with free food, soft drinks and merchandise in addition to getting triple their money back." But "at least five of the fans" said that they "were never told of any potential goodies" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). Matthew Rush, another fan among those left without a seat, said that they "were herded like Texas cattle from Cowboys Stadium to the neighboring Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and back before they were finally allowed inside the gate." Rush noted that a website, SuperBowlsuit.com, "has already been started and [a] class action suit would soon follow" (Dan Graziano, FANHOUSE.com, 2/6).

GOODELL SPEAKS ON SITUATION: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today addressed the situation, saying, "We had an issue yesterday with several seats for our fans. It's something that we have been taking very seriously working at it. We apologize to those fans that were impacted by this. We are going to work with them and we are going to do better in the future. We will certainly do a thorough review and get to the bottom of why it all occurred, but we take full responsibility for that as putting on this game. But the one thing we will never do is compromise safety: Safety of our fans, safety of our players, anybody involved with our event." Goodell: "We had, obviously, a lot of challenges this week. There were a lot of things we were trying to deal with. But, there is no excuse. When you put on an event like this, you know you are going to have those challenges" (THE DAILY). SI.com’s Peter King writes, “There is no excuse, and never can be one, when you sell tickets for seats that are not valid.” King: “The league needs to be quick about this investigation, find out who dropped the ball, and do more than give the fans who got jobbed three times the value of their ticket.” Goodell today announced the fans “will attend next year's Super Bowl as guests of the NFL.” King: “That's a good gesture, but if I'm that Steeler fan from Erie I read about last night, and I'm getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis to see Atlanta-San Diego ... I mean, I'm still not happy” (SI.com, 2/7).

FALLING SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS: ESPN DALLAS' Todd Archer noted the announced attendance of 103,219 "wasn't even the biggest football crowd in Cowboys Stadium history." That mark is 105,121 for the inaugural regular-season game at the stadium, Giants-Cowboys in '09. The Super Bowl also "did not sniff the NBA All-Star Game, which drew 108,713 last year at Cowboys Stadium." The official breakdown of the attendance showed 91,060 fans "in the stadium and the outdoor plaza area and 12,159 credentialed workers" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/6). In Dallas, Brad Townsend notes the Super Bowl attendance "wound up No. 4 on the all-time list, behind two other Rose Bowl crowds" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/7). NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman said, "The attendance record was not the goal. The goal was to use this great building in a way that showcased the NFL, showcased North Texas and showcased some great players that we have in the NFL. And if we can come up with a better installation plan for a future event, we’ll do that” (THE DAILY).

Ticket snafu could hurt future
Dallas bids to host Super Bowl
DON'T START PLANNING RETURN TO DALLAS
: SI.com's Don Banks writes, "The NFL may well again play another Super Bowl here some day, but I wouldn't advise Jerry Jones to call Roger Goodell first thing on Monday to get back in line for another Super Bowl for his home ballpark. I'd give it a little time. Say three years or so, just to let Sunday's pregame seating debacle simmer down." It was an "embarrassing and very un-NFL-like gaffe for a league that usually runs the Super Bowl like a well-oiled machine" (SI.com, 2/7). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "This, in the lexicon of present slang, is an epic fail. ... This is an abomination." It "doesn't matter that the NFL was able to accommodate most of the affected fans, that after an enormous backlash they found places to squeeze them." This was the "endgame to a week-long fiasco that should prevent Dallas from ever even getting a sniff of the Super Bowl again" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). But in Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes, "Even with awful weather and canceled events and screw-ups on game day that, incredibly, left 400 fans without their $900 seats, the Super Bowl will come back. NFL owners aren't too concerned about bad publicity. They're eager enough to force a lockout" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/7).

ROUGH WEEK: In N.Y., Branch & Schwartz write it was "something of a tragicomic coda to a week of logistical nightmares and missteps that vexed organizers and Jones." Snow, ice and "subfreezing temperatures forced hundreds of flight cancellations, made travel in the sprawling metropolitan area nearly impossible at times, and muted much of the week's festivities" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). Also in N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano writes things "went from bad to worse when ice chunks fell from the stadium" Friday, "injuring six people." The ice danger "forced officials to close four stadium entrances before the game, spawning long lines that forced some fans to wait two hours just to get inside" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7). In Dallas, Steve Blow writes, "Are there Super Bowl do-overs? We might ask for one. Nothing about our Super Bowl Week played out as anyone had imagined -- except maybe in some worst-case-scenario planning sessions" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Reed Albergotti writes the "combination of problems may have dented the Cowboys' hopes of hosting another Super Bowl in 2016" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/7). In Houston, Ken Hoffman writes under the header, "This Super Bowl Earns A Grade Of Big D" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/7). Meanwhile, in Ft. Worth, John Henry reported rainfall in the second half of the game "exposed two apparent leaks in the roof of Cowboys Stadium." The leaks "did not pose a hazard for spectators" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 2/6).
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