Answers elusive in Super Bowl seat slip-up

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on February 7, 2011 at 10:43 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 7 at 11:45 PM

ARLINGTON — The story of why Arlington officials condemned 3,200 temporary seats at Sunday's Super Bowl is starting to trickle out.

Most of the fans watched the game inside Cowboys Stadium, but an estimated 400 were forced to leave.

The specifics of why, however, remain elusive.

Arlington's City Manager Jim Holgerson refused to discuss the matter, and city officials denied News 8 access to public code inspection records.

For some, Super Bowl XLV will be best known as the game where greed got out of hand.

"They were trying to break this meaningless record of having the largest attendance Super Bowl," said Steve Sparks, one of the fans displaced when his seating section was abruptly closed. "I don't know who cares besides Jerry Jones."

Eighteen-thousand temporary seats were being added to Cowboys Stadium in the weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl; 3,200 of those were so dangerously constructed, they were condemned by Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson just hours before kickoff.

Among his concerns were handrails that didn't fit correctly.

"You don't have stairs without guard rails," Crowson said. "The possibility of a fall exists and makes for an unsafe environment."

"We apologize to those fans that were impacted by this," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who took responsibility for fan displacement.

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, however, indicated others shared the blame, without being specific.

"This was an installation issue, and a failure — a shared failure — and it is as simple as that," he said.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was somewhat less specific. "Manpower and timing issues caused inconveniences to some fans," he said.

Holgersson, the Arlington city manager, declined to answer any of News 8's questions about the incident.

Of those who did speak out, only Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck mentioned in passing perhaps the biggest break in the case.

"It was clearly obvious to all of us that we were short of time and didn't have a contractor," Cluck told WFAA's Jim Douglas. "The contractor exited Friday or Saturday."

That contractor was Seating Solutions of New York, which bailed out on the job just hours before the game. A spokesperson with the company declined to say why.

But spokesman John Dixon of Manhattan Construction, brought in last Thursday to help finish the project, said Seating Solutions ran out of parts Saturday night and its workers simply walked off the job.

Fire officials then pulled the plug on the extra seating a few hours before kickoff.

That left 3,200 seats unfinished, a Super Bowl record unbroken, and a scrambling group of fans very unhappy.

City records obtained by News 8 three weeks ago indicated the seating company was having big problems meeting code guidelines.

Among the concerns: Blocked exits, improper engineering seals and questions about structural integrity.

Arlington officials told News 8 at the time all of the concerns had been addressed.

We now know that the problems were actually getting worse.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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