INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL is trying to avoid another super snafu.
One year after hundreds of ticketed fans were left without seats at Cowboys Stadium, organizers have added only 254 temporary seats to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Feb. 5 game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy said officials decided in March the capacity for a stadium that normally seats about 63,000 for football games would be expanded to roughly 68,000 for the Super Bowl — with most of the additional capacity coming from standing-room only tickets.
The league still could add some padded seats to camera platforms, standing-room only availability to stadium suites and perhaps additional seats near the auxiliary media area, but no more tickets are going on sale.
“What we do is take a hard look every year,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “As we get closer to the game, our event planners will sit in each of the sections and fill in other areas that would not be used for a regular-season game. In general, we are taking a very fan-first approach, which is to deliver to our fans the best from the NFL.”
That certainly wasn’t the experience some fans got in Arlington, Texas.
Just hours before kickoff of last year’s Green Bay-Pittsburgh game, league officials announced that about 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe. The league scrambled to find new seats for about 850 people, forcing the rest to watch from standing-room only locations around the stadium.
Two days after the game, the displaced fans filed a federal lawsuit alleging breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices.
League officials later agreed to give the affected fans several options. The approximately 2,800 people who were delayed in reaching their seats or relocated once they got inside Cowboys Stadium could receive a refund for the face value of last year’s tickets or receive a game-day ticket to a future Super Bowl.
Roughly 475 other fans who were left without seats for the game won by Green Bay had four options: Receiving a refund of three times the face value of the ticket ($2,400) and a ticket to Indy’s first Super Bowl; a game ticket to any future Super Bowl with airfare and four nights in a hotel room covered by the league; a check for $5,000; or a check for more money if they could document expenses topping $5,000.
McCarthy said fans had until Monday, after the two league championship games were completed, to decide. He did not yet have a number of how many fans asked for tickets to the Giants-Patriots game.
When the Indianapolis host committee sold NFL owners on the game, they estimated the stadium could be expanded to a capacity of 70,000. After last year, the league took a more cautious approach and in March settled on the rough number of 68,000.
“It played a role,” McCarthy said.
Still to be decided is the actual capacity. That won’t be announced until late next week, which McCarthy said is customary.
The 254 seats were already in place Monday night when CBS filmed its annual show “The Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials,” hosted by Boomer Esiason and Jillian Michaels at Lucas Oil. The show will air Feb. 1 at 8 p.m.
Last year, the seats were being installed right up until the last moment, with carpenters hammering away as fans arrived for the big game.
But McCarthy said the league has taken every measure possible to guard against another problem.
“Our fans expect a world-class experience from the NFL and we look to deliver that,” McCarthy said. “And there are things we have done to improve.”
One key change this year will be the addition of a new mobile phone application to receive real-time information on everything from weather to the waiting times at stadium gates. The application includes a map of Lucas Oil Stadium and downtown Indy as well as a full event schedule on game day and the week leading up to the game as well information on restaurants and nightlife.