Commentary

Cowboys Stadium's ace falls in hole

Sunday seating woes, attendance shortcomings cap dismal Super week for North Texas

Updated: February 7, 2011, 4:40 PM ET
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cowboys Stadium was supposed to be the great equalizer after ice and snow storms shredded Super Bowl XLV week.

Turns out even the $1.2 billion stadium could not deliver as much as hoped.

[+] EnlargeSeating Problems
Tony Medina/SMISeating issues before kickoff capped a disappointing Super Bowl week for North Texas.

What did deliver was the game. The Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25, to bring the Lombardi trophy back home and help wipe away some of the stain from earlier Sunday.

Before a speck of dirt was moved for a new stadium in Arlington in 2006, Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner and general manager, had his eyes on the Super Bowl attendance record. The NFL was pumping up the possibility, too.

With 103,219 in attendance, Super Bowl XLV came up 766 short of the record.

What in the name of Christina Aguilera messing up the lyrics of the national anthem happened?

So Super Bowl XIV still has the record with a crowd of 103,985 seeing Pittsburgh beat the Los Angeles Rams at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 21, 1980.

It wasn't even the biggest football crowd in Cowboys Stadium history. That was the 105,121 who saw the Cowboys lose to the New York Giants in the 2009 regular-season opener. And it did not sniff the NBA All-Star Game, which drew 108,713 last year at Cowboys Stadium.

The official breakdown: 91,060 fans in the stadium and the outdoor plaza area and 12,159 credentialed workers.

More people packed Cowboys Stadium on Sunday than the population of Green Bay, Wis., but that was just a tease.

Sort of like Super Bowl XLV week.

Some of the issues that cropped up could not be avoided because of the weather, but to hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell laud the efforts of the cleanup Friday seemed a tad disingenuous considering how bad the roads were for most of the week.

The best decision the NFL made Sunday was to keep four of the stadium's 10 gates closed to avoid the repeat of Friday's incident, when six people were injured by ice and snow falling off the roof. As a result, however, getting into the stadium was harder than it should have been. Fans complained of long lines and little information.

Those kinds of complaints you can live with, especially when so many in attendance have never been to Cowboys Stadium before.

But how in the world could the doors to the stadium be open before the installation of 1,250 temporary seats was complete? How could the seats not meet code requirements on the day of the game?

During a media tour of Cowboys Stadium in late January, NFL director of event operations Bill McConnell said the league would be working on the seating right up until kickoff. It sounded comical at the time, but he was telling the truth. And it wasn't so funny when the contractor, Seating Solutions, could not complete the seats on time.

Six sections totaling 1,250 seats were closed off, leaving some fans in different locations or displaced altogether.

The NFL attempted to adjust on the fly as best it could by moving the 400 fans from Sections 425A and 430A, which were in the upper reaches of the temporary seats in the west end zone, to a field club area behind the Pittsburgh bench to watch the game on televisions and standing-room platforms.

Those fans did not buy tickets to see the game on television.

The league will offer $2,400, tripling face value, to those affected. Well, what if those fans paid more than face value? What about their flights to the area, which were probably delayed because of the weather? What about the price gouging at the hotels?

With the second-largest crowd to see a Super Bowl gathered in Arlington, Texas, 400 affected fans might not seem like much of a big deal, but the NFL prides itself on public relations.

This was just the culmination of a disappointing week for North Texas.

Roger Staubach, chairman of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, said Super Bowl XLV will be determined a success if the NFL decides to bring its championship back here.

A return never seemed like an "if" proposition before.

After Sunday, maybe it's not such a sure thing anymore.

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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