By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Indianapolis _ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talked to local media Friday at the NFL Scouting combine for the first time since the Super Bowl XLV seating fiasco at Cowboys Stadium.
Jones declined to go into detail regarding the problems, citing an ongoing evaluation. But he expressed regret and disappointment about the seating issues and the weather that prevented North Texas from reaching his goal of putting on the best Super Bowl ever.
Jones understands and accepts the personal criticism he is receiving as the face of Cowboys Stadium. He however said many things went right thanks to the work of the North Texas Super Bowl committee and its coalition of cities and he believes they will get another Super Bowl in the future.
"I think that our opportunities for a Super Bowl in the future our very outstanding, very good, because of the venue that we have and because of the way the Super Bowl was supported, and, if you will, worked," Jones said. "With that aspirations, it is, I do, along with the NFL take responsibility for the seating issue and some of the things that we would like to improve on regarding the seating issues, the informing of the fans that were involved, the NFL and I take responsibility for. You always like to look at areas you can do better, get better. We certainly intend to and will get much better in terms of the seating and how that is handled. I don’t have a lot of details for you relative to specifics there, as to specifically what we would like to improve on. That’s part of the process of the work ahead to do it better."
Here are some other selected questions from Jones' intimate sit down with five members of the media in his Marriott Hotel suite on Friday morning.
What were your overall thoughts and impressions and impressions?
"Our goal was to have the greatest Super Bowl possible. And if possible to have the greatest Super Bowl that's been held. We sold the reason we wanted the Super Bowl here is that we had great traditional interest in football in the area. We also sold the central part of the country. We sold and we anticipated at the time we sold it to the NFL was we had a great venue. One of the challenges in the NFL is getting enough seats to go around so to speak. We knew we were going to have a venue that could do that and accommodate. That was one of the real plusses. So we thought we had one of greatest and enthusiastic support staffs in the North Texas Super Bowl committee that could really impress and do good job with the Super Bowl. To that end I must start with the fact that we had an outstanding effort and an outstanding organization that involved thousands of people in a unique coalition of people from all over North Texas to put that Super Bowl on. That is a major plus. That did happen. As a matter fact it is noted that it did happen. And it will always be noted that it did happen in the trying circumstances of inordinate weather conditions...inordinate conditions. It met the task in my mind, the North Texas effort, both financially as well as effort-wise. It was well-organized, and it was noted throughout the days and the weeks before the Super Bowl, it was really noted by the NFL and many of the people the NFL brings in, contractors and people like that, were really impressed with the structure of our North Texas Super Bowl committee and impressed with how it was executing in many of the things during the days before the Super Bowl when we were dealing with that inordinate weather. Many things went right and went to plan, to the extent that we, in any way we were compromised with the weather, I think that the fact that we hadn’t had schools closed for four days ever, we hadn’t had some of the weather issues we were dealing with, that will always be recognized as an exception for our area relative to future Super Bowls. In answering your question, I’m giving you my thoughts, but in relative to future Super Bowls, the people that decide and get the Super Bowl, for the fans, the owners, all are relatively speaking very knowledgeable about stadiums, weather conditions, conditions of operating stadiums and some of the challenges that go with a Super Bowl, and they are very well aware of that, talking about the owners."
Why didn’t you start putting in seats earlier?
"I'm not going to get in any specifics and wouldn’t right now, because we are still reviewing and evaluating some of what we did, as well as some of what we can do in the future, which is coming. But with the goal that we had to make our Super Bowl the best, I do really regret that we had, the criticism, especially for fans that were involved. As you know, most of the fans that were out there were from out of the area. Only 25 percent was from our immediate area, what you would call Cowboys fans. So to the end, that we have the time, the approach to what we do, not only from the standpoint of what we do for their inconvenience or them having been disappointed, that’s one thing. But how we operate in the future, if we should have other instances, that’s all under review. One thing I would point out is that our stadium is certainly, the concept of the stadium, it was designed for the flexibility of temporary seating. You can note those, but we have had several world-class events that were very much enhanced by the way our stadium is designed to increase our capacity by our temporary seating. So that is not at issue as much as it is evaluating what we did to create the criticism, to create the issue, and to do better in the future.
So the problems were in how it was handled, not the fact that the stadium couldn’t support the seats?
“The answer is yes to that. It was operational as opposed to the design. The stadium was designed from the get go to have those equivalent of permanent seats. The infrastructure, the concessions, restrooms, basic size per capita, all of that is a part of the design and were anticipated, planned on, part of our presentation to the NFL. It is important, capacity and the number of fans, the Super Bowl can have for the event is an important consideration and will be an important consideration when you make bids.’’
So what were emotions as everything was happening on Super Bowl Sunday with the displaced fans?
“Again, there was a lot of feeling, along with the NFL, we’re sharing the responsibility. It’s been noted that we were trying to work hard to get replacement tickets. We were part of that process, the people of our organization contributed to relocating fans. We were very active in that process. It was one of, as it led up to the game, of roll our sleeves up and go to work and do what we can do to accommodate these fans.’’
Are you disappointing people want to blame you as the face of Cowboys Stadium?
“Well, I would say that yes, I am disappointed, but I understand that directed criticism. It makes me want to get it right. It creates a real desire on my part to do better. We’re very proud of everything that we presented to get the Super Bowl, to get the vote to have the Super Bowl, we’re very proud and so many things went so right and were so exceptional, relative to how we prepared for the Super Bowl, just exceptional. Exceeded anything the NFL expected. We worked real hard to prepare the people who were in the stadium on game day, anyone who was a part of putting it on. There were a lot of things that went right, but I do understand and regret and am disappointed for the fans, as I said earlier, and share that responsibility and do it in a way that is really the only way that I can, which is go to work. That is do it in here and evaluate and look at what we can do better. Obviously there are things that we can do better. Get that done right. We’ve had a lot of events at the stadium. As you know, you can’t do a Super Bowl unless you have been in operation two years. There’s a reason for that. They want you to have experience and have worked out the kinks. We’re talking an area here that we had not done before in some of the location of the seating. It hadn’t been done before. What you do when you work in areas and it needs improvement, that’s what you do. It was a part of our design, our plan, and a part of our plan on a going forward basis to do that temporary seating as well as we had done other areas."
How do you think North Texas looked in the face of the national criticism?
“I think the areas that were criticized have to compete with the positiveness of the venue, the positiveness of the game, the positiveness of the great viewership, and if you will, the outside looks at the positiveness of the fans that were able to come to the game and the number of fans that were able, in a positive way, to be there. I know that the criticism we have over the seats and how they were handled is one that I have told you about. Certainly, that is a part of the look. But when you look at all of the positives, when you look at the caliber of the game and how the venue was presented. I mean the world and most of the nation, only a fraction of the percentage of the nation were literally at the game. I think while you’ve got those negatives, and I’m not downplaying them at all, because those are the areas you work on and really will improve on. While you’re doing that, those positives are so good. I think that really when the dust settles, I think there will be a real recognition of how North Texas came together. I think that was very unique for that entire region to come together like that. I think that will be a positive. But in general, we always knew the Super Bowl will be viewed and looked at from the standpoint of how it’s looked at from millions of people. That was a tremendous success.’’