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Friday, February 11, 2011
Official waits months to seek permits

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys didn't obtain a permit to install temporary seating at Cowboys Stadium until about three weeks before the Super Bowl, despite being informed of Arlington's requirements five months ahead of the big game, according to records released by the city Friday.

City and stadium officials then scrambled to prepare the temporary seating for the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, the records show, but about 1,250 of the seats were deemed unsafe -- and about 400 fans who had bought tickets with a face value of $800 had nowhere to sit.

E-mails between Ed Dryden, Arlington's chief building official, and Jack Hill, the stadium's general manager, show the city began asking about the permit last September but didn't receive a request for it until Jan. 13. The lack of a response during the intervening months prompted at least one reminder from Dryden.

"We are currently reviewing the other interior stadium items proposed for the Super Bowl," Dryden wrote Hill on Dec. 22. "The bleacher seating is noted as supplied by others and there are no details included with this permit set. We will appreciate either you or your vendor moving forward quickly with a permit application submitted to us for review and approval."

Dryden told The Associated Press on Friday that the seats could have been installed properly despite the delay in getting the plans to his office.

"It isn't a real complex project," he said. "There's not a lot of detail involved in the plan review, so it would have been possible."

A call to Hill by the AP was returned by a Cowboys spokesman who said the stadium official would have no comment.

The e-mails released by the city show Arlington fire officials attended a Jan. 29 meeting during which Hill informed the contractor hired by the team, Seating Solutions of Commack, N.Y., of 18 engineering and construction issues that needed to be addressed before the Feb. 6 game.

At 7:14 a.m. on game day, Dryden sent an e-mail to Jim Parajon, the city's director of building inspections, predicting trouble.

"Looks like we may be here until noon," he wrote. "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!"

Shortly after noon, Arlington assistant fire chief Jim Self sent an e-mail to two other assistant chiefs marked "seat update-confidential." In the e-mail, he indicated that Seating Solutions had walked off the job and that it was being handled by Manhattan Construction, the general contractor that built the stadium.

"Maybe between 1,300 lost seats due to incomplete construction," Self wrote. "Working on it now. ... Contractor did walk, but Manhattan taking over."

Phone and e-mail messages to Seating Solutions weren't immediately returned.

At a news conference Friday, deputy city manager Trey Yelverton said the city began assessing the situation during the late morning and early afternoon on the day of the game and concluded the temporary seats couldn't be used.

The controversy has been a black eye for the NFL, which has given fans who lost their seats two options. One is a cash payment of $2,400 -- three times the face value of their tickets -- and a ticket to next year's Super Bowl. The other is a ticket to any future Super Bowl, along with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations.

At least two lawsuits have been filed on behalf of fans whose seats didn't exist or had obstructed views for the game that the Packers won 31-25.