For many the day wasn't so super

e-mail print By Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel
Feb. 11, 2011 7:12 a.m.
http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports...14.html?page=1


For Green Bay Packers fans who traveled to Arlington, Texas, to see their beloved team defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Super Bowl XLV, the memories will last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, not all of the memories are good ones.

In interviews with a dozen or more fans who came to Dallas, many told stories of little or inadequate signage to help fans find their way; long and often unruly lines of people waiting for hours to get inside; inadequate security; and an overall lack of organization that was at odds with an event that was years in the planning.

“They seemed like they were not prepared for anything,” said Robert Hammen of Waukesha, who went to the game with his nephew and endured a wait of more than three hours just to get into the stadium. “They knew 105,000 people were going to be there, and they took for granted that every Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fan was going to shell out a lot of money,” added Andrew Bryl, who grew up in Wisconsin, but traveled from his Nashville home to Dallas for the game.

“The wait to get into the stadium was very long because it seemed they were completely short-staffed. I had to wait for 2.5 hours to get into the stadium from the time I started in line. I didn’t mind the extra metal detectors for everyone’s safety, but there was 105,000 people, so the least you could do was have enough security people. No one directed anyone.”

"Somebody dropped the ball," said Keith Pollnow of Oshkosh, whose family has held Packers season tickets for 50 years. Pollnow was one of the unfortunate fans who held a ticket but was denied a seat. "The most disappointing thing is that they were well aware of the problems before Sunday." While there were many others who had no problems getting to the stadium, getting to their seat and enjoying the game without any hassles, other fans said the situation marred what for many was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the Packers in the Super Bowl.

Since Sunday, the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and Cowboys Stadium officials have been on the defensive as stories have begun to emerge of fans who had problems from the moment they got close to the stadium. On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Commissioner said he would expand the league's compensation offer to fans who were "significantly delayed in gaining pre-game access to their seats due to the problems with the installation of some of the temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium."

Officials estimate that as many as 2,000 fans in temporary seating were delayed. As a result, Goodell said those fans "will receive a choice of either a refund of the face-value amount of their ticket or a free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of their choice."

Goodell’s offer is separate from an earlier offer to an estimated 400 fans - such as Pollnow - who were denied a seat even though they were holding valid tickets. Under that plan, fans can choose one free ticket to next year’s Super Bowl game plus a cash payment of $2,400 or one free ticket to any Super Bowl game plus round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations provided by the NFL. In the event of a work stoppage that impacts next year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis, the fan would have a choice of one free ticket to the next Super Bowl.

Despite Goodell's overture, the negative reaction has spawned at least two lawsuits in Texas. Goodell has since ordered a complete review of the game, including all stadium and stadium entrance issues. Thomas P. Windsor, a Brookfield businessman, went to the Super Bowl with his 77-year-old father-in-law, Talva Rogers of Milwaukee.

Windsor and Rogers had paid for premium seats and decided to try to get to the stadium early. They arrived about four hours before the 5:30 p.m. kickoff, and paid $305 to park.

Windsor said he wondered what the two of them would do for three hours inside the stadium.

“Foolish me,” Windsor wrote in an e-mail. “Was directed to a sea of people by a sole stadium employee, where we proceeded to shuffle, destination unknown, for two plus hours in mud. The closer gametime got, the more testy people became, jumping over barricades with security nowhere to be found.”

Windsor began to worry that Rogers, his father-in-law, might tire and not be able to make it to his seat. By the time the two got to a gate, they were told it was the wrong gate.

“I literally begged the staff – don’t make us walk around to the other side. No luck,” Windsor said.

Windsor and Rogers got to their seat just as Christina Aguilera was singing the National Anthem.

“Yeah, it was worth it,” Windsor said of his overall experience. “But it was so tarnished. My father-in-law said he was in heaven. It was a great game. But this took some of the luster off.”

Tom Miller of Green Bay, a Packers season-ticket holder, bought two tickets from another season-ticket holder. His experience at Cowboys Stadium was nightmarish.

By the time he got to the stadium gates, he was told his tickets were no good.

“I said, ‘I know they’re good. I bought them from a Packers season-ticket holder.’ They said, ‘No.’”

Miller was told to go to a ticket resolution area. The ticket resolution area was a tent near Rangers Stadium, the baseball park.

“There was one guy with 200 or so angry people. He had some cops around him, too,” Miller said.

He was told to go to an area near the Party Plaza, an outdoor area set aside for fans willing to pay at least $200 to watch the game on video monitors.

Miller said he and his friend waited in an area near the plaza for nearly 90 minutes.

“People were getting irate,” he said. “Some of these guys had their dads with them, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Packers and Steelers fans."

Ninety minutes before kickoff, Miller said a police officer had had enough of fans waiting with no resolution in sight. The officer ordered security to let Miller, his friend and others inside.

When they got in, Miller said, a security guard told him, “I can’t believe they let you in.”

It got worse. Miller said he walked around, looking for his seat. Finally, officials put Miller and his friend in the Miller Lite club, an area behind the Packers’ bench. They could watch the game on television, not in a seat.

As the game was about to start, Miller said, they were told they were going to be moved. He said officials walked the small group completely around the stadium, ending up back at the Miller Lite club. Later, they were moved to a club behind the Steelers’ bench.

“We spent basically the whole game there,” Miller said.

An NFL official later contacted Miller to try to make amends. “The person I spoke to was very nice,” Miller said. “They said they would do what they could.”

“I said, ‘This is how you treat the season-ticket holder?’”

Pollnow was moved around, too, and ended up in the same club behind the Steelers' bench.

In addition to watching the game on television, Pollnow said he and others tried to sneak peeks at the actual game.

"We were trying to watch the game betwen the Steelers' players legs," Pollnow said. "It was hard."

Pollnow said he was weighing his options on the NFL's offer for those who were denied a seat. Pollnow also said he wrote a letter to the Packers. In the letter, he suggested the Packers should give him priority to buy Super Bowl tickets if the Packers get to the big game again.

Pollnow hasn't heard from the Packers.

Don Weber, a Milwaukee businessman, also endured long lines and inadequate security as thousands of fans pressed to get in Cowboys Stadium. He said he worried about senior citizens. He said there was one elderly man who had never missed a Steelers' Super Bowl.

"He was exhausted after getting in," Weber said.

"The Packers win far overshadowed the negatives," Weber said. "But outside of the game everything else was a disappointment. It was as if this was the first time they ever had a football game there