ARLINGTON, Texas – Angry fans outside a Cowboys Stadium fence chanted "Let us in!," "Jerry sucks!" and "We want seats!" while being denied inside access for Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.
After initially being turned away at the gate, approximately 850 fans with tickets in temporary seating sections were relocated to similar or better seats for the game between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the game started, the NFL said another 400 fans who were not accommodated with seats in the stadium were eventually taken inside 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," the league said in a statement. "In addition, these fans will each receive a refund of triple the cost of the face value of their ticket. The face value of these tickets is $800."
Denied fans stand outside of a fence at Cowboys Stadium.
(Courtesy of Y! Dallas)
While the league didn't elaborate on the nature of the problem – only describing a number of sections as "unusable" – fan Amanda Saldana of San Antonio says they were told that "stuff was blocking our seats."
The Associated Press reported that the temporary seats had been installed in six temporary sections, but they went up so late that the fire marshal didn't have time to inspect them, according to a police officer standing near an affected area who wouldn't give his name. The officer said the winter storms that struck Dallas earlier had set back work on the temporary seats.
The AP also reported that about 15,000 temporary seats were added to the stadium in a bid to set the record for the largest crowd in Super Bowl history. The temporary seats filled open platforms that are usually standing-room only "party pass" areas for Cowboys games.
"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," the NFL said. "We regret the situation and apologize for the inconvenience it caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter."
The scene was reminiscent of the stadium's opening football game in September 2009 when nearly 30,000 fans with party passes tried to get into an area with a capacity of about 15,000. Arlington fire officials and security had to step in to control the crowd.
Ron Soncini, a Steelers fan from Reno, Nev., wasn't happy with the NFL's offer or the event planners.
"The game is what I came here to see, not to be rejected," he said about 90 minutes before kickoff. "I don't understand this. This is ridiculous. They should have known these seats weren't going to be available before now."
Many of the rejected fans said they were skeptical of an unofficial refund letter given to them at the gate. They also were opposed to watching the game in a hospitality area.
Phil McCollough of Orlando, Fla., thought he would be attending his 13th Super Bowl. He paid $1,700 for his ticket.
"I could have been home playing with my grandchildren instead of this," McCollough said. "The stadium looks great, but right now it is my least favorite in America."
Others said they had paid up to $3,000 for their seats and were not happy about the NFL's offer to give them three times the amount in a refund.
"What about our travel and hotel expenses," one man shouted.