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NFL officials yesterday said that the league "knew of a potential Super Bowl XLV seating fiasco by the middle of last week," but "didn't alert fans to complications with temporary seating at Cowboys Stadium ... because they felt they had 'a very good shot' at getting the problems fixed and because they didn't know who exactly might be affected," according to a front-page piece by Benning & Farwell of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Officials said that about 1,250 ticket holders "were relocated or forced to watch Sunday's game on television monitors because the final installation of railings -- as well as the tightening of stairs and risers -- was not completed in six sections of temporary seats." NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman: "We made a judgment that it was the right course of action to bring the fans in, rather than to discourage them or create a sense that they wouldn't have the information necessary." Benning & Farwell note another 2,000 fans "were delayed in getting to their seats because of the installation problems" with the railings. NFL officials said that the delays "were not related to inclement weather and that the problems had nothing to do with an ultimately unsuccessful push for a Super Bowl attendance record." Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday reiterated that North Texas "did an 'outstanding job' and that the region would be a strong contender for future Super Bowls." Goodell noted that the league was going to "conduct a 'thorough review' of the situation and that the problems were 'the responsibility of the NFL.'" Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones in a statement yesterday said that "'manpower and timing issues' were the reasons behind the incomplete installations, and he apologized to fans who were affected" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/8). Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said of the unused seats, "We were hopeful work would be completed, but it was not. When it became apparent the stairs were not going to be completed, we told the NFL those seats were not going to be in use" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/8).
BUCK STOPS WITH NFL: North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee President & CEO Bill Lively said the "buildup and preparing the region for the Super Bowl is our responsibility," but the "week of the game belongs to the NFL." Lively: "The game is theirs. The stadium is theirs. We have no responsibility or authority" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/8). Grubman said the league "felt in the middle of the week" that the temporary seats were "going to be a problem." Grubman: "We did not feel until the game day that we had an issue where there was a distinct possibility that we would not be able to accommodate fans" (USA TODAY, 2/8). Goodell said that it "would have been difficult to notify fans earlier because it was unclear initially how many seats, or which ones, would be affected" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/8). Meanwhile, Jones in his statement said of the displaced fans, "We deeply regret their Super Bowl experience was impacted by this error, and we share that responsibility with the NFL." Jones: "Our collective goals all along were to ensure that more than 103,000 people would be able to have an enjoyable game day experience on Super Bowl Sunday, while also being a part of an event that ultimately produced the largest television audience for any program ever" (USATODAY.com, 2/7).
SORRY WE HAVE INCONVENIENCED YOU: USA TODAY's Sean Leahy noted Goodell yesterday "apologized" for the ticket fiasco and said that the league would invite the displaced fans "to next year's Super Bowl." Goodell also "pledged to reach out to the affected fans." Goodell: "We'll be working with them and reaching out to them. We'll be bringing them to the Super Bowl as a guest of the NFL next year" (USA TODAY, 2/8). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Albergotti & Eaton noted the league "plans to compensate about 2,000 other fans who were 'inconvenienced in some way,' including delays getting seated." However, the league "won't cover disgruntled fans' travel expenses" (WSJ.com, 2/7). Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes Goodell "lauded league employees for giving up their seats and those of their family members to cut down on the number of displaced paying customers." But a NFL source said that the employees "were given no choice," as they "received an early afternoon e-mail instructing them to return their tickets." The source said that the employees instead "watched the Super Bowl from a tent on the stadium grounds" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/8).
NOT DOING ENOUGH: A PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE editorial is written under the header, "Super Fraud: The NFL Owes Seatless Fans Far More Than Promised." The Steelers and Packers "were not directly responsible for the incompleted seats," but they "must use their clout to pressure the NFL to make these fans whole by covering all costs, plus a premium paid for their disappointment, humiliation, pain and suffering." The NFL offered the displaced fans a triple refund of $2,400, but the "sum of $50,000 per ticket would not be too high." The editorial: "The NFL must prove with a fair compensation package that a ticket for a seat to any of its games guarantees a seat -- and that this is the kind of personal foul that will not happen again" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/8). A MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL editorial states the compensation provided to the fans is "not enough -- not when fans had to fly to Dallas, put themselves up in hotels and pay for their meals" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/8). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes, "What's $2,400? I assume most of these people didn't arrive game day. If you stay in a hotel, you must do so at least four nights, at over $200 a copy. You had to travel to get there. You had to eat" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/8). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge: "Irate fans will want more, and, frankly, you can't blame them. ... If I'm the NFL I go beyond that and pay for meals, flights, accommodations, whatever expenses those 400 persons incurred this weekend" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/7). CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote the NFL "did the best that they could for a situation that needed immediate crisis management." But some people "don't want to be at next year's Super Bowl if their team isn't there," and some fans "still didn't get the [experience] that they were promised" (CNBC.com, 2/7).
ANOTHER BLOW TO FANS: In N.Y., William Rhoden writes under the header, "League's Greed Left No Room For The Fans." The seat fiasco "provided a perfect ending to a strange week of unexpected blizzards and miscalculations by the usually precise NFL." Rhoden: "You can disrespect fans only so much before they turn on you. A few more episodes like what happened in Arlington, coupled with a nasty lockout and the newly fashionable permanent seat licenses, and the NFL empire could begin a decline in popularity" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8). In Boston, Ron Borges writes, "For as much as the league talks about the fans, most of the time it pilfers from them." Cowboys Stadium, with a "regular capacity of 80,000, allegedly expandable to 110,000," had problems "because the business of football was more concerned with breaking the all-time attendance record than whether it was feasible, or wise, to try" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8).
Several people who were part of the 400 ticket holders at Super Bowl XLV left without a seat are speaking out, with Packers fan Nick Sorensen calling the Super Bowl the "most disorganized public event I’ve ever been to,” according to Paul Srubas of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. Sorensen and his group waited “nearly 2.5 hours to clear security.” Sorensen: “Then they told us our tickets were bad and that we had to go out again. We were actually escorted out by police after they told us our tickets were not good.” Sorensen’s group was “made to wait in a tent while staff tried to figure out what to do with them.” Eventually they were “told they could go back in,” but then were “turned away again.” They were “brought down by freight elevator to a club suite that was below ground and behind the Steelers bench and the media crews.” Meanwhile, Sorensen is “nervous" about receiving the $2,400 refund from the NFL, as he must "mail his ticket to the NFL” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/8). Sandee McKinnon said she and her husband, who were among the 400 displaced fans, “missed the whole first quarter and part of the second.” McKinnon: “After an hour, to an hour and a half in line, they told us to go back to our seats. They said an NFL rep would meet us. But nobody was there. We never did see an NFL rep.” Packers fan Andrew Mankiewicz and his aunt were “given seats, but only after four hours of walking to different parts of the stadium to resolve the issue.” He was “told midway though the fourth quarter that he would get a refund of the $800 face value of the tickets.” But he said that that “won’t cover his costs” as he spent “nearly $2,000 each” on the tickets. In Milwaukee, Sharif Durhams notes fans who were displaced “got one other treat: They were allowed on the field after the presentation of the Super Bowl trophy and into the area near the locker rooms after that” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/8).
AIRING THEIR DISPLEASURE: A Packers fan named Ryan who was one of the 400 said officials “trapped us like caged animals for five hours outside and said, ‘Hey, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know if you’re going to get in.’” The fan said, “I was absolutely irate … If you want to see 400 NFL fans go absolutely crazy, you should have been in that area yesterday.” He said he felt the $2,400 refund “is kind of the NFL’s way of sweeping us under the rug a little bit,” but admitted winning the game “makes it a little easier to take” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 2/7). Displaced Steelers fan Andrew Vasey said, “I likened it to the scene in ‘Animal House’ where the fraternity guys were taking the pledges, the rejects they didn’t want, to that one little room away from the party.” Vasey said that he “missed most of the first half” and watched the second half “from a standing-room-only platform on the upper level near the spotlights at the top” of Cowboys Stadium. Block Communications Chair Allan Block and his guests “first were taken to a lounge where they could watch the game on television but could not see the field.” When his guest “protested, an usher took them to a handicapped seating area and placed folding chairs there.” Block said that what was “particularly unsettling” was that they “spent the game worrying that someone would arrive to tell them they were not allowed to be sitting there.” Block: “The NFL pretends they took care of people, but they didn’t” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/8). Displaced fan Bruce Ibe said, “A lot of people were talking about a class-action lawsuit against Jerry Jones and the NFL. ... I think everyone who was involved should be fully compensated for everything, including their airfare, lodging and food” (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/8).
MORE LIKELY TO COME: Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said similar stories are "going to continue to come out from fans as nobody was really able to talk to them for the most part. ... They were kind of kept away even from the media after they were displaced from their seats" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/7).
The situation that left 400 fans without seats to Sunday's Packers-Steelers Super Bowl XLV was the "latest in a series of setbacks that plagued North Texas' first Super Bowl," but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "sounded an optimistic note for the area when asked if he could envision it hosting another Super Bowl," according to Tom Orsborn of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. Goodell: "The owners vote on it, but I think (North Texas) did an outstanding job. It was a great event. I'm sure they will be seeking another Super Bowl, and I'm sure the owners will look at that very seriously." But Orsborn writes regional leaders who "want the game to return will have to battle bitter memories of a week marred by ice, snow, delays, cancellations and finally the seating fiasco" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 2/8). In Dallas, Jeff Mosier notes though Goodell has been one of the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee's "big backers in the past week," there still was "clearly room for improvement." Dallas Area Rapid Transit "struggled to keep its light rail system running," and ice on the roof of Cowboys Stadium "fell and injured people and also kept some gates closed on game day." Host Committee President & CEO Bill Lively said that "adjustments would be needed for future volunteer programs to take into account the distances people have to travel." Still, Lively said that he "wished no one had mentioned future Super Bowl bids." Lively: "I wish we hadn't gotten into the debate about the 50th Super Bowl. We should have just countered that and said that we're working on 45. Let's worry about another game later. ... It sort of distracted 45." Mosier notes Lively, Goodell and others all week "fielded questions about how the weather and other issues might affect the next bid" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/8).
TOO GOOD TO PASS UP ON: ESPN DALLAS' Todd Archer reported the host committee is responsible for the lead-up to the game, and the Super Bowl breakfast "had the largest attendance in the history of the game," the Taste of the NFL event "for the first time will deliver more than $1 million to food banks nationwide," and the Gala "drew more than 3,000, which also was a record." Lively said, "We're saddened by some of the ticket issues and some of the lines, but that is not what we do. We are affected by it because we care about it. ... The committee kept its commitments and did what it said. The game was a great game. The stadium looked great." He added, "The problems there are not insignificant problems, but I have to believe this: The stadium hosted the game so effectively, the revenue generation had to be tremendous for the owners. ... Some complained of the lines and the cold of last week, but the pervasive answer was, 'This has been fun. This stadium is just gangbusters.' And it is. So the NFL will benefit from this" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/7). Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said "manpower and timing issues caused inconveniences to some fans." But Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said of future Super Bowls, "I guarantee you without any doubt in my mind that they will come back the minute they are able to. There is just too much upside. You have these little bumps and bruises. That ain't (expletive)." He added playing Super Bowls at Cowboys Stadium "just makes too much sense." Cuban: "It's enclosed, it's beautiful, and it's got all the suites. It's an opportunity for everyone to do business and for the fans to have fun." Cuban said that "neither the league nor the Cowboys are to blame" for the seating fiasco. Cuban: "You work with vendors and you trust them, and sometimes they come through and sometimes they don't. And when they don't, they're not the ones that are going to look bad" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/7).
DESERVING OF A SECOND CHANCE: A DALLAS MORNING NEWS editorial states, "Did it all go perfectly? Obviously not." But the NFL "would be wise to keep North Texas in mind as it decides where to stage the 50th Super Bowl" in '16. The area will "have a better mobility plan in place next time around." DART "can't perform as poorly, although those train and bus freeze-ups certainly inconvenienced residents far more than guests." Organizers should "forget that quixotic quest to get a Super Bowl attendance record," and it was "unforgivable" that some fans were unable to be seated. The editorial: "These were not shining moments, but keep them in context. ... What North Texas has is the nation's most stunning football stadium and the warm hospitality of a people to put on the best show possible" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/8). In Austin, Cedric Golden wrote, "Jerry's Big Score resulted in a terrific Super Bowl. ... In fairness to Jerry, he can't control what falls from the sky and what sticks to the ground." Golden: "It turned out to be a nice event and Jerry should be commended. After a week of slipping and sliding, he landed on his feet and overcame several unforeseen circumstances to deliver a credible Super Bowl party. It was Jerry's first Super Bowl. And not his last" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 2/7).
Inclement weather is just one of many issues
Dallas faced in hosting its first Super Bowl
LESSONS LEARNED: Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee Chair Mark Miles said that the group "will announce detailed plans in the next few weeks for coping with worst-case weather scenarios" ahead of next year's Super Bowl in the city. Miles said that a lesson from Super Bowl XLV was the "value of reliable on-the-fly communication in the form of signage on the ground and updates to everyone affected by last-minute changes." Miles and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said that planners of next year's event "have two key advantages over this year's crew." The city and county government are "unified, making for less bureaucracy than was involved in the multiple jurisdictions hosting this year's event," and Super Bowl XLVI "will be much smaller, with events and hotels clustered in walkable Downtown Indianapolis" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/8). Dallas Morning News reporter Jeff Mosier said of the Indianapolis group, "I don't know that they expect to be in a rotation for future Super Bowls, so they can kind of go into this not having to worry quite as much about whether this will harm their chances of getting another Super Bowl" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/7).
THE WHOLE THING IS GETTING TOO BIG: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes, “Is this really what the NFL wants to become? A divorced-from-reality debauch?” She adds the “good” game was an “ancillary event,” and the league “may want to rethink” that strategy. Jenkins: “It may also want to rethink its tendency to look like the Marie Antoinette of the sports world. … A tipping point was reached with this Super Bowl, for me” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/8).