- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a limited number of sections in temporary seating areas at Cowboys Stadium were not completed in time, 400 fans were left without seats at Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.
Two hours before the game, workers were frantically trying to fix the sections or get the fans "relocated to similar or better seats," valued at $800. The NFL found alternate seating for 850 of the 1,250 fans affected. The 400 who were not able to be seated were given a refund of triple face value -- $2,400.
"Incomplete installation of temporary seats in a limited number of sections made the seats unusable," the NFL said in a statement. "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. We regret the situation and inconvenience that it may have caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter."
The NFL tried to placate those 400 fans, taking them inside the stadium to watch the game on monitors in the North Field Club behind the Pittsburgh bench. They also had the option of viewing the game from standing-room platforms in each corner of the stadium. Those fans will still get the triple refund.
The fans "watched game in club w/free food, soft drinks +
merchandise," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted. "The other 850
were re-located to seats in equal or better locations. NFL +
Cowboys staff and families gave up seats."
After saying all week that he expected Sunday's game to set an all-time Super Bowl attendance record with 105,000 fans seated inside the stadium, Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones come up short as the announced attendance of 103,219 was just shy of the 103,985 mark set in Super Bowl XIV between the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.
Based on the 850 seats that were forfeited by the NFL and Cowboys to make room for those who were relocated, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed that the seating debacle was the reason the attendance record was not set.
"Yes," McCarthy said when asked if those seats would've been otherwise occupied had the displaced fans not been moved there. "But we've been focused on the safety and experience of our fans."
Instead, Jones will have to settle for the fourth-largest Super Bowl crowd.
At about 4 p.m. in a concourse, a Steelers fan in a Troy Polamalu jersey was yelling obscenities into his cell phone at a stadium employee. He couldn't be seated because his seats were in an area near the seats that didn't meet code.
"We spent $3,000 on tickets," his friend said. "After parking and $10 beers, it's $3,000. I just want to sit."
Said Jennifer Dunfee, a friend in their party who flew in from Colorado for the game:
"We've spent over an hour trying to figure out how to get up there.
The NFL closed four of the 10 entrance points into the stadium Sunday because of lingering ice on the roof of the stadium. On Friday, six people were injured by ice falling onto the sidewalk outside of the structure. NFL officials worked with the Arlington Fire Department to direct fans safely into the stadium. Safe corridors were established around any potential fall zones.
In addition, the Arlington Police Department requested additional officers to the East Plaza ticket offices after the crowd started to become unruly after ticket scanners weren't functioning. There were chants of "Jerry Sucks!" and "NFL Sucks!"
Steve and Dawn Novak traveled from Rochester, N.Y., to find that their $800 seats could be exchanged for three times face value, or else for a $350 standing-room-only ticket. They said the NFL would not reimburse the difference in value. They decided to take a loss on the ticket but attend the game after coming all that way. She is a Packers fan and he is a Steelers fan, and they were both angry about the experience.
"We said one of us was going to be happy at the end of the day and we were wrong," Steve Novak said.
Dallas resident Brian Shake said it generally takes 15 minutes to wait at the gate. He said he waited in line for an hour and 20 minutes on Sunday.
"It was just so long," Shake said. "Problem was, you didn't know if you were in the right line or not. Everywhere you looked, there were just fences and screens and you couldn't get in anywhere."
His wife Kathy Shake called it "frustrating."
"It was very confusing on how to get in as you snaked your way through security."
Paul Bryant, from Milwaukee, said he and his party waited at least 90 minutes in line to get into the stadium.
"Nobody knew where to go. ... They had 14 detectives, and there's got to be 20,000 people going through here. If you do the math, that isn't enough," Bryant said.
Stadium workers were covering the top corner sections of the upper deck behind one end zone two hours prior to kickoff.
There were off-limits seats in the same upper-deck rows
as seats that were deemed safe. Yellow police tape was used as a
dividing line, with uniformed personnel also keeping folks away.
The fans affected were directed to the Party Plaza area, which is located outside the stadium for the Super Bowl.
The temporary-seating sections were erected in what is usually an open area. Fans can purchase $29 "Party Passes" to stand in the open areas during Cowboys games.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com, ESPN.com reporters Kevin Seifert and Liz Merrill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.