SBJ/Jan. 24-30, 2011/Facilities

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  • Super Bowl challenges include complicated crowd control

    Don Muret
    Populous senior principal Jerry Anderson and his crew are marking their 26th consecutive year of preparing the Super Bowl site, but this year’s game, Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium, presents several new challenges for them and the NFL.

    The building, which opened in June 2009 with 80,000 fixed seats, will be set up to seat more than 93,000 for the game, as spelled out by North Texas officials in their bid to capture the event. That’s a 25 percent increase over most recent Super Bowl stadiums, which have been set up to handle up to 74,000 people, said Anderson, who is the league’s chief consultant for the championship game’s set-up.

    The substantial increase in seating capacity, in a building where 80,000 general-ticket holders will enter through the end zone doors and the remaining 10,000-plus premium-seat holders through sideline entrances, has the NFL focused on crowd management, Anderson said. About 9,000 temporary signs, 1,000 more than at past Super Bowls, will be installed around the stadium to point fans toward their seats.
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    Temporary seating has been set up at the ends of Cowboys Stadium.

    “Once inside, for general-ticket holders, the only level you can go around the whole building is the upper level, so you have to make sure you bring people into the right end,” he said.

    The addition of the Plaza Party, a new Super Bowl program where fans without game tickets can buy a ticket to watch the game on a big screen outside the stadium on the venue’s east side, adds a further wrinkle to the system. The league will set up dedicated security checkpoints within the overall secured perimeter around the stadium to bring those Plaza Party patrons to a space where they can buy food and drink and watch a performance by the band Reckless Kelly.

    Plaza Party tickets are priced at $200 and are going on sale to Cowboys club seat season-ticket holders in packages of four that include a parking pass, four game programs and four Super Bowl scarves, said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events.

    The NFL will count Plaza Party patrons in the game’s official attendance, which will give this Super Bowl an opportunity to be a record-breaker. The attendance record is 103,985, set at the Rose Bowl in 1980.

    The Cowboys set an NFL record of 105,000-plus for their first regular-season home game against the New York Giants, an event that did suffer from crowd management issues and led to restrictions for how many standing-room-only tickets the team could sell for individual home games.

    For the Super Bowl, the temporary seats are installed on the three platforms at each end of the field that normally constitute standing room, but the NFL identified 320 standing-room-only spots on stair risers in the corners of the seating bowl, Supovitz said. Cowboys season-ticket holders have first crack at buying those tickets, which cost $350.

    Adding the temporary seats created another challenge because it meant removing extensive sponsor displays from those end zone platforms, such as the Dr Pepper StarBar and Ford Motor Co. vehicles. Both Dr Pepper and Ford are founding partners of Cowboys Stadium.

    Cranes had to be brought inside the stadium through the big glass doors on both ends to take down the displays. Those pieces are being stored in trucks off site until after the game, when they will be put back up again, Anderson said.

    Because of the high-level finishes throughout the nearly 3 million-square-foot stadium, the NFL, through Anderson’s group, bought “miles of Masonite” and duct tape to protect the floors from the pounding they would endure during set-up. After the game, the Masonite will be donated to Habitat for Humanity for use as building material.

    “We have floor protection on every level so that we wouldn’t create damages,” Anderson said. “That’s something we don’t have to do in some other stadiums.”

    But it’s all part of Super Bowl prep work, a job that’s at least a little different every year. “It’s funny some of the things that go on,” Anderson said.�0;8;

    Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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