Records Show Cowboys Waited Months To Seek Seat Permit
ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – City officials released more than 100 documents Friday that show the Dallas Cowboys waited more than four months to submit proper permit requests needed to install thousands of temporary seats before the Super Bowl.
About 1,250 seats were deemed unsafe by the fire department before the game, and 400 ticketholders were left without a seat.
The documents also reveal Seating Solutions, the third party company contracted to build the temporary sections, did not work on the seats early Saturday morning before kickoff despite officials granting the company special security clearance that night during a preliminary sweep of the stadium. Seating Solutions did not answer repeated requests for comment.
“When you get up, take a deep breath and call me. I’m not happy,” Jim Self, Assistant Chief of the Arlington Fire Department, emailed to Battalion Chief of Special Events David Carroll Saturday morning before the game. “No one showed up to work on the seats all night … what the hell happened?”
On Sept. 8, 2010, building official Ed Dryden emailed Cowboys Stadium General Manager Jack Hill to request permits for the city to review before signing off on construction. As of that point, Dryden said, “there’s not been any communication with your vender and the City.”
“We will expect to see permits with plans submitted for review of the seating,” he added in the email.
Hill responded later that afternoon, saying, “like a lot of things here it is constantly changing” and that Dryden “should be getting drawings soon.”
On Sept. 22, Dryden emailed Hill again and gave him a list of six specific specifications the city expected to see in the permit requests. Hill responded, saying he forwarded the email to Seating Solutions and “will make sure they comply with the requirements.”
Dryden would send another email three months later on Dec. 22, reminding Hill that the city still had not received a permit request even after emailing the specific list of requirements.
“To date, the City has not received any permit application with any plans for any of the additional bleachers seating planned for the Super Bowl,” Dryden wrote. “We will appreciate either you or your vendor moving forward quickly with a permit application submitted to us for review and approval.”
The Cowboys submitted a formal permit request 23 days later on Jan. 13. It was issued later that day, four months after the city sent its six specifications to the Cowboys. City officials said they did all they could to be ready to inspect immediately upon completion.
“We were trying to make sure that we told them they needed additional resources, additional contractors,” said Trey Yelverton, Arlington Assistant City Manager. “We had inspectors around the clock, numerous inspectors. We were ready to inspect on a moment’s notice.”
In an email sent three days before the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, Dryden emailed Inspections Director Jim Parajon expressing concern about construction of the bleachers.
“BI (Building Inspection) and FD (Fire Department) personnel have consistently expressed our concern with the lack of what we deem significant progress with the installation,” Dryden wrote. He added that progress had been made only in the east and west end zone areas on the main concourse.
Dryden spent the overnight hours in the stadium on the day of the Super Bowl because of his continued concerns over the bleachers’ mid-aisle handrails. At 7:14 a.m., ten hours before kickoff, he sounded the alarm in an email, saying, “I think the Cowboys are not going to correct certain items and assume the risk.”
“This is not a good situation,” he added.
Parajon succinctly summed up his stance in a 10:15 a.m email sent that day: “Bottom line is if it is not right, don’t approve it.”
At 12:10 p.m., Dryden sent a panicked email to Parajon confirming his fears.
“Seating contractor just gave notice that his crew cannot complete the upper concourse west end,” Dryden wrote. “2400 seats. Major!!!”
At 2 p.m., three hours before kickoff, the fire department ruled 1,250 seats were unsafe and cordoned them off. Days before the Super Bowl, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said he spoke with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about the repeatedly missed deadlines.
“I expressed my concern. He expressed his concerns, which matched up with mine,” Cluck said. “I said, ‘you know we’re going to go to the point where life and health is threatened.’ He said, ‘you can rest assured we’re going to take no chances; we never do.’”
The NFL offered displaced fans two options: $2,400 cash, which is three times the $800 face value of each ticket, and a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl; or a ticket to any future Super Bowl with round-trip airfare and four nights hotel accommodations.
Fans whose seats didn’t exist or were given seats with an obstructed view have filed two lawsuits, both of which seek class-action status.