Latest News

Documents outline Cowboys' involvement with troubled Super Bowl seating project

In its 2007 bid to host the 2011 Super Bowl, the North Texas Host Committee promised that 93,212 seats would be available in Cowboys Stadium. Work on the stadium itself had not yet begun, but plans called for about 80,000 permanent seats, meaning some 13,000 temporary seats would have to be built.

"They knew about this for four years," Bill Lively, president of the Host Committee, said about the NFL. On June 23, 2010, New York-based Seating Solutions announced that it had won the bid to install the seats for the Cowboys.

But as late as 10 days before kickoff, city inspectors were still asking the Cowboys to provide a total seat count.

Here is a timeline of the events that culminated in some 1,200 fans being forced to move to other seats or standing-room areas right before kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday. The information is from e-mails and documents released Friday by the city of Arlington in response to a request under the Texas Public Information Act.

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels said Friday afternoon that the club would have no comment on the documents.

Dec. 22 (46 days before kickoff): Arlington Assistant Fire Marshal Stephen Lea tells Arlington fire officials: "We still have not received any plans on the plaza bleachers from the Cowboys."

Jan. 5 (32 days left): Cowboys Stadium General Manager Jack Hill applies for a building permit for the temporary seats.

Jan. 8 (29 days left): Construction on the seats begins in the hours after the Cotton Bowl, the last pre-Super Bowl event at the stadium.

Jan. 12 (25 days left): Arlington city official Rick Ripley tells building official Ed Dryden that he has found 40 problems with "revised plans" for the temporary seating, including a lack of an engineer's seal or signature.

Jan. 13 (24 days left): The city grants Hill a "conditional permit" for phased approval. The installation is subject to approvals of field safety inspections before the temporary seating may be deemed safe and used for seating.

Jan. 20 (17 days left): 3:24 p.m., Dryden gives Hill a list of problems inspectors have found with the work of the seating contractor, including a lack of a full set of drawings. "Please note that we are continuing to interact with Seating Solutions and they are continuing to express that these inspection items will be corrected and are always expressing cooperation," Dryden wrote. "However, the day of the event is 16 days away and some of these issues are significant and from our perspective there's not a great deal of progress that we can see."

6:12 p.m.: The contractor promises to submit full drawings before the end of the month. "Please understand our delay. We are under the gun and have had numerous delays. We are aware of your concerns and we are moving full steam ahead to satisfy them. ... I believe you can see our progress and we are dedicated to total compliance."

Jan. 26: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tells the Star-Telegram of his desire to break the Super Bowl attendance record: "I think we've got a good chance to break the record without counting anything outside. The stadium is certified for 111,700. When we built this stadium, I had in mind being able to reach those kinds of numbers."

Jan. 27 (10 days before kickoff): About the same time that Bill McConnell, the NFL's director of event operations, is assuring journalists that the temporary seating will be ready by early the next week, Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson is sending an e-mail complaining that he still doesn't have a certified letter from an engineer detailing the structural stability of the temporary seating areas or a total count of all seating inside the stadium. "My team has reported additional (permanent seating) being bolted to the concrete in the existing "bowl area". Based on this occurrence, I'm requesting a total and confirmed seat count (all fan seating in the stadium) by Saturday, January 29, 2011."

Also on Jan. 27, the league's Brian McCarthy announces that about 105,000 fans are expected to attend Sunday's game, which would break the Super Bowl attendance record.

Jan. 29 (8 days left): An official with Populous, the NFL's Super Bowl event manager, reports at an operations meeting that there will be 89,582 seats, 12,744 suite seats and 320 standing-room places on the stairwells. The number of temporary seats is not broken out.

Jan. 30 (7 days left): The contractor tells the Cowboys and the city: "We worked really late last night and have just been pushing so hard. We think you will be happy with our progress, and we will continue to push."

Jan. 31 (6 days left): The Packers and Steelers arrive at DFW Airport, and Super Bowl week begins.

Feb. 2 (4 days left): Still seeing little progress on the temporary seating construction, Crowson sends a stern warning to Hill, expressing his doubts about "the effective completion" of the project: "Arlington Fire Inspectors and the Arlington Building Official have worked diligently with your contractor throughout the month of January. During this period the city identified multiple issues in the construction phase of the installation effort. Many of the issues previously identified are still not resolved with just over three days left before the Super Bowl. I'm very concerned that there is not currently a certified Engineering report confirming the structural stability of the "as built" seating/stands."

"I've directed Arlington Fire Inspector personnel to continue providing immediate code compliance assistance in order to ensure that all identified issues are resolved as soon as possible. Our team will be available 24 hours a day to address temporary seating/stands issues with members of your team and the contractors responsible for temporary seating/stands installation at Cowboys Stadium."

"I'm also concerned about the effective completion of this project. There have been multiple meetings with your contractor where agreed upon goals and timelines were established and, subsequently, not met nor completed to standard."

Feb. 3 (3 days left): Hill sends a progress report to Frank Supovitz, the NFL's vice president for events, and members of the Jones family, saying that Seating Solutions has brought in more workers for seating installation and that the Cowboys Stadium crew is assisting in the cleanup process. He said the "two biggest areas of concern" deal with temporary seating on the concourse and a walkway in the east end zone seating area but says they "will be resolved today."

Feb. 5 (1 day left): Arlington fire and building officials work overnight to oversee construction.


Between 2 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.: Dryden sends several e-mails to the Cowboys, Seating Solutions and the Arlington fire marshal about numerous deficiencies, mostly missing or improperly installed handrails, missing guardrails, loose seats and loose steps. "Looks like we will be here until noon," Dryden tells his boss, Jim Parajon, director of community development and planning. "There's still no absolute finality on the seat count. I think that the Cowboys are not going to correct certain items and assume the risk. This is not a good situation!" Parajon responds, saying city administrators have been apprised. "Bottom line is if it is not right, don't approve it," Parajon said.

12:40 p.m. (5 hours before kickoff): Assistant Fire Chief Jim Self tells city officials that some seats in the upper concourse of the west end zone "may be lost. DC (Dallas Cowboys) working on solution. Maybe between 1,300 lost seats due to incomplete construction. Working on it now ... Contractor did walk, but Manhattan (Construction) taking over."

2:30 p.m.: The NFL's McCarthy sends draft statements about the seating problems to Arlington police officials and the Cowboys before releasing them to the media. The draft statements do not contain numbers, indicating that three hours before kickoff, it was still unclear how many seats might be closed off.

4:05 p.m. (90 minutes before kickoff): The NFL issues its first official statement: "There are a limited number of sections in temporary seating areas inside the stadium that have not been fully completed."

6:20 p.m. (45 minutes after kickoff): The NFL issues its final update of the day: "The 400 fans in sections 425A and 430A that were not able to be accommodated with seats were taken inside the stadium to watch the game on monitors in the North Field Club behind the Pittsburgh bench."

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star