Temporary Super Bowl seating has been an issue for weeks

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on February 6, 2011 at 10:59 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 7 at 8:26 AM

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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

ARLINGTON — News 8 began hearing about problems with the temporary seating scheme at Cowboys Stadium three weeks ago.

At that time, many — if not most of the temporary seats designed to increase capacity for Super Bowl XLV — had already been installed.

What we were led to believe three weeks ago, and again last Thursday, is that Arlington city officials were satisfied that the 18,000 temporary seats were being properly installed and were safe.

But on Sunday evening, the NFL and upset fans made it abundantly clear that that apparently was not the case.

It was clear even before the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium was built that Jerry Jones and the NFL would not host a Super Bowl if the venue could seat only 78,000 fans.

That's why the stadium was designed with extra space to accommodate temporary seating — in this case, 18,000 additional seats.

On Sunday afternoon, just a few hours before the game, the NFL issued statements indicating that more than 1,200 ticketholders would not be permitted to sit in those temporary seats, which are located in four lower sections and two upper sections of the colossal sports arena.

No reason was given other than to say the decision was made for "the safety of fans."

Three weeks ago, when most of those seats had been installed, News 8 caught wind of problems. Concerns were raised by the Arlington Fire Marshal and Arlington code inspectors. Records obtained by News 8 at the time confirmed it.

A series of memos and photographs documented numerous safety and code violations, among them:

  • "Blocked paths of egress" for fans who might need to escape in an emergency.
     
  • Inspectors found "plans with no engineer seals."
     
  • But perhaps most glaringly, one set of plans was uncovered with "no information regarding ... structural stability."
     
  • And this: "Structural elements of one set of stands that are not completely secured and supported."

But six days later, one city official assured Arlington's top building inspector, "I believe that they (the contractors) have addressed our major concerns."

News 8 has learned that the construction of the temporary seats continued right up until the last minute, even though tickets for those temporary seats had been sold by the NFL long ago.

It has become clear that code inspectors on site Sunday declared that seat construction was either not sufficient or was not safe.

We will not know complete details until perhaps Monday,  because the official word from Arlington after Super Bowl XLV is: "No comment."

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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