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Firm to try to keep ice from building up on Cowboys Stadium roof

ARLINGTON -- The architectural firm that originally designed Cowboys Stadium is exploring possible solutions to prevent ice and snow from building up on the domed roof after six workers were injured by falling ice during Super Bowl week, officials said.

The Dallas Cowboys organization has asked HKS Architects to make recommendations meant not only to improve public safety but also to prevent damage to the retractable roof, spokesman Brett Daniels said this week.

The roof has no structural damage but does have minor surface and gutter damage that is being repaired, Daniels said.

"The fact that the roof held up is a good thing," Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said this week. "I don't think it's a design flaw. It's Mother Nature. You dump 6 or 7 inches of snow on anything and you are going to have problems."

Minor injuries

North Texas was experiencing its worst ice storm in two decades just days before the Feb. 6 game. Though snow had accumulated on the stadium without problems during the NBA All-Star Game the year before, the buildup turned out to be much more dangerous this time.

Around 1:15 p.m. Feb. 4, large chunks of snow and ice that had built up in the tracks where the roof opens suddenly began sliding off the roof, Crowson said.

Six people were hurt -- none critically -- before Arlington firefighters established a perimeter to keep people at least 80 feet from the building. Chunks of falling snow also tore through the roofs of tents set up for the game and broke the windshield and damaged the roof of an FBI vehicle, according to city e-mails.

According to documents released this week by the city, one man who was warned by safety officials not to go outside was promptly struck in the head after he walked out a stadium door.

"All the injuries were relatively minor. All those people are walking around and healthy," Crowson said.

Closed gates

Dallas attorney Clint David, whose firm handles premise liability litigation, wonders whether those who were injured have a legal case against the stadium.

"The question is really going to be -- is this a design flaw? Is this a maintenance flaw where the people maintaining the stadium should have known ice would accumulate and taken steps to protect the people below?" David said.

For about 24 hours, Arlington fire crews and stadium employees used water hoses and shovels to try to break away the accumulated ice, but it was too thick, Crowson said.

So the city decided to protect people from below. On Super Bowl Sunday, the Fire Department closed four of the stadium's 10 gates and assigned additional firefighters to help manage the crowds coming in and out of the building.

"If we encounter this again, we will be doing the same things," Crowson said. "We're prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to keep people safe."

Arlington Deputy City Manager Trey Yelverton said that though the city owns the stadium, the Cowboys operate it and will pay for any modifications or repairs.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

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