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400 Super Bowl ticket holders unseated and unforgiving

ARLINGTON, Texas — Last-minute problems with unfinished temporary stands at Cowboys Stadium kept as many as 400 ticket holders from their seats at Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.

"The fire marshal said the seats weren't safe," said Denny Podrasky of Ross, a season-ticket holder who paid $1,600 for two seats, but was turned away.

"It's terrible. I've had season tickets for 40 years. I've been to three Super Bowls. This is the worst experience I've ever had," said Podrasky, who was at the game with his wife, Gloria.

NFL officials offered rebates and apologies to fans but little explanation as to why more than 1,200 seats in the $1 billion stadium were not ready before the Green Bay Packers kicked off to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"This is a nightmare," said Laurett Pettibone of Milwaukee, whose path to her $800 seat was blocked by yellow caution tape.

The NFL released a statement two hours before kickoff promising refunds to those who were not accommodated "triple the cost of the face value of their ticket." Another statement at 5:50 p.m. said it relocated about 850 ticket holders in four sections, but could not accommodate another 400 people in two $900-per-seat sections. The league said it allowed the 400 people to watch the game on monitors or from standing sections.

"The safety of fans attending the Super Bowl was paramount in making the decision and the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and city of Arlington officials are in agreement with the resolution," the statement read. "We regret the situation and inconvenience that it may have caused. We will conduct a full review of this matter."

"One person said it could be a structural issue," said Laurie Mathews, who drove from Madison, Wis., with her husband, Craig, to attend their first Super Bowl. They were told at the gate that their $800 tickets had been deactivated because they were in an affected section.

"If we can't be inside, what's the sense of being here?" asked Joe Udvari of Moon, who went to the game with his son, Matt Udvari, and said the fire marshal closed his seating section.

Cowboys Stadium has a capacity of 80,000 but added temporary seating in hopes of breaking the Super Bowl-record crowd of slightly less than 104,000 for Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in 1980.

The problem did not affect only those in the temporary seating areas. Jennifer Dunfee, 23, a Steelers fan from Denver, was told that she and three relatives, who paid $2,200 per ticket, couldn't get to their seats because the "auxiliary seats are broken, and we have to go under them to get there."

"I'm ready to punch someone in the face," Dunfee said, "and you can quote me on that."

Some fans said they had tickets for rows and sections that didn't exist in the temporary seating.

"Watching the game outside isn't going to make me feel warm and fuzzy," Shawn Michael of Beaver Falls said.

Photo Galleries

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV is Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers at Cowboy's Stadium in Arlington, TX February 6, 2011.

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