Fans left out in the cold
ARLINGTON, Texas — Jim Rouleau of Hudson, Wis., a season-ticket holder for Packers games at Lambeau Field, spent $3,900 for each of his two Super Bowl tickets. When he found his seat, with a face value of $900, he was told that his section was closed and that he could not sit there.
''We got all the way to our seats," Rouleau said. "They just turned us away."
More than 1,000 ticket holders had similar experiences, as the latest public-relations nightmare for Super Bowl organizers and the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones unfolded just as kickoff approached.
Sections of temporary bleachers erected inside Cowboys Stadium were not completed in time for Sunday's game, leaving about 1,250 people holding tickets for seats declared unusable.
The NFL said that about 850 of those ticket holders were relocated to other seats in the stadium. But long after the game started, hundreds were still outside, in line at the ticket window, awaiting resolution that few imagined could satisfy them.
Those sent away to watch the game elsewhere, or invited to watch the game on televisions inside a club at the stadium, were promised refunds by the NFL worth three times the face value of their tickets, which were mostly $800 or $900 apiece. But most of those affected had paid far more for their tickets and had spent small fortunes on travel and lodging. And any number of them, having had to exit the stadium before re-entering, missed a quarter of the game.
''Jerry Jones is offering $2,700, but that's not good enough," Rouleau said.
He had company in his anger.
''I've just lost 8 grand," said Bradley Geier, a Dallas lawyer, who said he spent $9,700 for two tickets that had a face value of $900 each. "Just because they decided to put seats where they shouldn't."
After waiting through long security checks, some fans arrived at their sections 30 minutes before kickoff, only to learn that they would not be allowed to sit in their assigned seats.
''The frustrating thing here is that they wait till the day of the game to say these auxiliary seats aren't good?" said Dan McGinnity of Spokane, Wash., a Packers fan who paid $900 for his ticket. "Don't they have any sort of plan ahead of time?"
It was something of a tragi-comic coda to a week of logistical nightmares and missteps that vexed organizers and Jones, the Cowboys owner who paid for most of the $1.2 billion stadium and convinced other owners to reward North Texas with a Super Bowl for the first time.
Snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures forced hundreds of flight cancellations, made travel within the sprawling metropolitan area nearly impossible at times, and muted much of the week's festivities. Snow and ice slid off the roof of the stadium Friday, injuring at least six people on the plaza below.
And on Sunday, it appeared that Jones' quest to set a Super Bowl attendance record — adding the temporary seats inside the stadium and charging $200 a person to sit immediately outside it with the game shown on giants screens — had led instead to a bit of Super Bowl ignominy.
The Super Bowl attendance record of 103,985 was set in 1980 at the Rose Bowl in California. Sunday's game fell short; the attendance was announced as 103,219.
A spokesperson for the Arlington Public Safety Joint Information Center referred all questions to the NFL.
The NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, asked how such a decision could be made so late without notice, said via e-mail, "It was an issue throughout the week that unfortunately did not get resolved."
In a statement the NFL added:
''The safety of fans attending the Super Bowl was paramount in making the decision and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and City of Arlington officials are in agreement with the resolution," the NFL said. "We regret the situation and inconvenience that it may have caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter."
Pending that further review, the NFL and Jones improvised on Sunday.
The league said that it could plug some of the ticket holders into seats around the stadium because it keeps a reserve of open seats in case of problems or complaints. Some were taken to unused seats granted to NFL officials, teams or journalists.
But several sections of temporary stands, one in each corner of the field at about midlevel of the stadium and two high above one end zone, were left empty. Three of the four corner sections were covered in large black sheets. The other looked ready to occupy, but far underneath the seats, metal beams were scattered, an assortment of parts apparently waiting to be put together.
Some of the 400 disenfranchised fans who chose to watch the game in one of the stadium's private clubs were given free food and merchandise, and were allowed to walk around the stadium and watch from standing-room only places. And they got, for what it was worth, three times the face value of their original tickets.
It was not hard for them to contain their excitement.
Tickets for weeks had been high demand because the game featured two teams with passionate fan bases. Outside the stadium hours before the game, people looking for tickets were left holding their money.
Gaylen Paulson, a Packers fan from Austin, Texas, was willing to pay $2,500 apiece for four tickets. A couple of hours before kickoff, he could not find takers. Several people scalping tickets said the going rate was closer to $4,000 per ticket.
''And most brokers are flush out," Paulson said. "The Packers are a popular team."
Most Super Bowls feel more like corporate affairs, with the stadium filled with people without strong feelings toward either team. But fans of the Steelers and Packers filled the stadium with an unusual energy.
The most emotional, however, could be found holding tickets they could not use.
''I think we're just in disbelief," said Dean Kepraios of Chicago, who paid $3,500 for tickets valued at $900.
Ashante Green of Pittsburgh held tickets to section 240A. Midway through the first quarter, she was given seats in section 448.
''It's ridiculous," she said. "What am I supposed to do? Not go in?"