What is fair compensation for Super Bowl fans who lost their seats?
ARLINGTON — Citing safety concerns with temporary seating, an NFL spokesman said the league had no room for 400 ticket-holders at Super Bowl XLV.
"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," according to a statement issued by the NFL late Sunday afternoon.
"It was a total debacle," said Tom Haynes, who was one of an estimated 400 people who had a seat the Super Bowl only to later learn that his ticket would not be honored. "Quite frankly, there are fraternity parties that run better than this event."
The off-limits seats were covered with a black tarp shortly before the start of the NFL championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
Exactly who made the decision to reduce the available seating was not clear Sunday night. The temporary section was shrouded in black cloth. The specific safety concern was never immediately revealed.
"We went up to our seats and they told us the fire marshal shut it down and that our seats were closed off," Sandy McKinnon said.
Haynes griped that he didn't learn that his ticket would not be honored until he started going through a security check at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon, 4-1/2 hours before kickoff.
"We were then sent by the NFL to four different locations. We finally ended up in Parking Lot A," he said.
Haynes quoted from the letter that he said he was given by the NFL:
Dear Sir or Madam.
Please be advised that due to the unforeseen conditions, the installation of temporary seating at Super Bowl XLV was not fully completed.
Your assigned seat is unavailable for today's game.
The NFL and the Cowboys sincerely regret this inconvenience.
"It's incredible," said Shawn Flaherty. "They don't know what they're doing. Everybody in there kept misdirecting us, and they knew something was up."
The league said it was able to relocate another 850 ticket-holders who had been planning to sit in Sections 205A, 215A, 230A and 240A with "similar or better seats." Contractors evidently never got finished assembling their temporary seating.
The episode left loyal fans who paid thousands of of dollars for tickets plus travel expenses nothing short of irate.
"I am a massive fan of the NFL. I think the NFL does a great job," Haynes said. "But guys: This is the Super Bowl! This is the biggest event in America and you totally blew it!"
If the Super Bowl is supposed to be an experience, it was ruined for hundreds before the game every got under way.
The NFL said it will offer refunds to the 400 fans who could not be accomodated, giving them all three times the face value of their ticket, about $3,000 in most cases.
It was not immediately clear if that amount would cover the expense of tickets purchased through a third party broker, much less the cost of traveling to North Texas to see the game.