Couch looking good for fans displaced in Dallas

Associated Press + More

By NANCY ARMOUR, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A seat at the Super Bowl will be a lot easier to come by for many of the fans who couldn't get one last year in Dallas.

They'll be at home on the couch.

Of the roughly 3,200 fans who found themselves scrambling in last year's seating fiasco, 246 took the NFL up on its offer of a ticket to Sunday's game in Indianapolis between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. The rest accepted a financial settlement from the NFL, plan to go to a future Super Bowl or are suing the league.

"It was like a dream to be able to go, but it was like a nightmare having to go through it," said Green Bay Packers fan Mike Feldt, who was at the game with his son, then 19. "You have to put it behind you and move on. We were compensated, and I was satisfied with that."

Everything about the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium is oversized, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hoped to have an attendance record to match for last year's game between the Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. About 15,000 temporary seats were added to boost attendance to some 105,000 people, which would have topped the 103,985 at the Rose Bowl for the 1980 Super Bowl.

But hours before kickoff, NFL officials announced that about 1,250 temporary seats had been deemed unsafe. The league scrambled to find new seats for about 850 people, but the rest — many of whom were Packers or Steelers season-ticket holders — were forced to watch from standing-room only locations around the stadium. Some spent hours in the basement of the place, while others were shepherded from spot to spot to spot without any clear answers about what was happening.

"The whole crisis management-contingency planning was lacking or non-existent. That was my most frustrating part," said Bill Jamison, a Steelers season ticket holder who took his 14-year-old son to Dallas. "They obviously knew there was potentially going to be an issue. They knew the possibility existed that something was not going to happen as far as the seats went.

"Every now and then, we'd see some suits walking around and you'd think, 'This is the NFL, they're going to do something for us. We'll be sitting next to Roger Goodell in the second half,'" Jamison added. "My son and I stayed in the basement for fear we'd miss a solution when it came about."

It never did.

"I wondered how the situation would have been handled if they were the seats on the 50-yard line for all the corporate people and the movie stars, would the situation been handled differently. I don't know," said Feldt, who shares a pair of Packers season tickets with his brother.

Two days after the game, some of the displaced fans filed a federal lawsuit alleging breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices. The NFL later agreed to compensate fans, giving them options depending upon how badly they'd been inconvenienced.

— The 2,800 people who were delayed in getting to their seats or relocated were offered face value for their tickets or given a ticket to a future Super Bowl.

— The 475 fans who were left without seats for the game had four options: A refund three times the face value of the ticket ($2,400) and a ticket to Sunday's Super Bowl in Indianapolis; a ticket to any future Super Bowl with airfare and four nights in a hotel room covered by the league; a check for $5,000; or a larger check if fans could document expenses above $5,000.

Jamison said he thought fans should have been offered money and a ticket to the Super Bowl of their choice, but could never get the NFL to agree. He and Feldt both wound up taking the cash. Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine, whose grandfather was Andrew Blair Turnbull, the Packers' first president and a member of the team's Hall of Fame, took the $2,400 and tickets to this year's game.

When the Packers lost to the Giants in the divisional round, though, Beisel-McIlwaine and her son sold the tickets.

"Since the Packers aren't going to be there, we're not going to be there," said Beisel-McIlwaine, whose father, Daniel C. Beisel, was a Packers' board member from 1968 until his death in 2009.

"We would have much preferred going to the game (if the Packers were playing)," she said. "But we made a little money, which will pay for my playoff games and next season's season tickets. We weren't out to gouge the NFL."

Despite last year's debacle, Feldt, Jamison and Beisel McIlwaine said it hasn't turned them off the NFL.

Or the Super Bowl.

"I'm still a sucker for it. I bleed black and gold, and that's not going to change," Jamison said. ""Hopefully the Steelers get there next year, and I'll try to get there as well."

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Follow Nancy Armour at http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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