ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - When Pittsburgh resident Pat Kelly plopped down in a seat next to his wife, Jill, at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday just before kickoff, it marked the end of a nearly six hour spat of confusion spurred by multiple sections of temporary seating that were not finished before the Super Bowl.
“Thank God I’m here,” he said, slumping into an empty seat in the auxiliary media section.
Thousands of Super Bowl ticket holders were just like the Kellys: They were told at the door that “unforeseen circumstances” may prevent them from attending the big game.
According to a statement released by the NFL, workers were still installing temporary seats in the stadium’s west end – three hours before kickoff. Some of those sold seats, the NFL later said, would not be available at all.
“There are a limited number of sections in temporary seating areas inside the stadium that have not been fully completed,” read a release given to media at Cowboys Stadium. “Fans who are not accommodated with seats inside the stadium will each receive the cost of the face value of their ticket.”
The ticket holders won the chance to buy these $600 tickets through a lottery. Their sections at Cowboys Stadium were to be comprised of temporary seats. But when those fans arrived on Sunday afternoon, they were directed to the venue’s standing-room-only Party Plaza.
The NFL said 850 ticketholders in 205a, 215a, 230a, 240a were affected and relocated. Four hundred fans in 425a and 430a could not be relocated and were given three times the $900 face value as a refund. Plus, on Monday morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the 400 displaced fans would also receive free tickets to next year’s Super Bowl.
After being directed to the waiting area, a security worker told Dallas resident Jake Batsell, who was at the game with his father, that the fire marshal had not signed off on the temporary seating sections. According to Batsell, a former Dallas Morning News reporter, some ticket holders yelled “Thanks a lot, Jerry Jones!” as television crews filmed the confusion.
“It’s a sealed off area. There are tables, heaters, vans. There’s concessions around here. It looks like it’s going to be a private entertainment area,” Batsell said. “Maybe they let us in early or something, I don’t know.”
Officials with the NFL soon passed out a notice saying that many assigned seats would be “unavailable for today’s game.”
The NFL’s statement, which was issued about an hour after the incident, went on to say that most of those fans would be moved to seats in similar or better areas. Some were later placed in the auxiliary media section in the stadium.
Ticket holders who were unhappy with the new accomodations, or simply did not want to move, were able to refund their tickets for three times the face value. Fans seeking refunds were transported to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, just down the street from Cowboys Stadium.
Before these statements were released, there was widespread confusion at Cowboys Stadium about the state of these ticket holders. Batsell said that, on one side of the Party Plaza, he was told that he would not be attending the Super Bowl.
“So all this is happening on one side of the area, and on the other side an NFL guy is telling everybody it’s going to be 30 minutes and we’ll still get into the game,” Batsell said. “So no one really knows what the final verdict is at this point…we’ll stay first, one way or another”
After the confusion settled, Batsell and his father were seated in the same section where he bought the tickets: 427a, at the “tippy top” of the stadium, as he later tweeted.
“Believe it or not, people are still buying souvenirs,” he added.
Despite all of the troubles — not just with seats, but with the cold weather as well — Goodell said that the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee did a terrific job. He said that there is no reason that North Texas could not land another Super Bowl in the future.