NEW YORK — A granddaughter of the first president of the Green Bay Packers was among the 400 ticketholders forced out of the stands at the Super Bowl because their seats weren’t safe.
In a letter sent to the NFL, which she provided to The Associated Press, Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should never be allowed to host another Super Bowl. She called her experience at Cowboys Stadium a “total disaster.”
Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that it took several hours — and miles of walking — before stadium and league officials finally led her and other displaced fans from their upper deck seats to a field level bar area behind the Pittsburgh Steelers bench — with no view of the field.
The 55-year-old woman from Michigan told the AP she received a call Wednesday from the NFL, and will be going to the league office Friday in New York to meet with a person who is handling her situation.
“I hope we can get this remedied quickly,” she wrote.
Beisel-McIlwaine’s grandfather was Andrew Blair Turnbull, the Packers’ first president and a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Her father was Daniel C. Beisel, a Packers’ board member from 1968 until his death in 2009.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday that 40 employees have been assigned to help identify and assist fans who were left without seats. He said 260 of the ticketholders have either been located or have called the league. Some have shown up at the league’s New York office.
In the days after the Packers’ 31-25 win over the Steelers, the league has given the displaced fans two options: $2,400 — triple the face value of the ticket — and a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl, or a ticket to any future Super Bowl, with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations included.
On Thursday, the NFL said an additional 2,000 fans forced to sit in temporary seats will receive either a face-value ticket refund or a free ticket to a future Super Bowl.
The Seatless 400 episode has already spawned at least two lawsuits. Two Packers fans filed suit against the NFL, the Cowboys and the stadium alleging fraud, breach of contract and negligence; and a class-action suit filed against the league, the Cowboys and Jones alleges breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices.
A Packers’ season ticketholder, Beisel-McIlwaine bought two tickets for the Super Bowl at face value, $800 apiece. When she arrived with her son at their seats — “in the nose bleed section, 425A seats 4 and 5″ — about three hours before the game, stadium officials said they weren’t ready. Eventually, they were told the seats weren’t going to be available at all and, like many others in the same predicament, ended up without a view at field level, forced to watch the game on television.
During her ordeal, Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she was sent from one ticket office to another and back again, then back to her seats, which by then were covered with a black tarp.
“We were getting nowhere,” she wrote in her letter to the NFL. “Everyone was passing it off to someone else and no one seemed to know what was going on. It was truly a run around.”
NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said 2,400 seats in the upper deck of the west end zone were not usable early on, and it wasn’t until just before gametime before it was determined which seats were safe.
“As people came back up, Cowboys and NFL personnel were standing there,” Grubman said. “If seats weren’t affected, they said they were sorry about the process and led them to their seats. If seats were affected, they said they were sorry and offered to take them to SRO sections or escort them to a field level bar and restaurant. They could not see the field, but could watch on TV.”
Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she “grabbed one of the few tables and two chairs and we were joined shortly by two other Packer fans. There were many folks in this bar now, many of which had to sit on the floor.”
Free food and drink was available, but even watching on TV was a problem: The picture was supplied by the NFL feed, and the audio was from the Fox telecast.
“They were not in sync with each other and it was very difficult to determine what down or how many yards there were to go unless we listened very closely,” Beisel-McIlwaine wrote.
There was a benefit: After the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25 and the Lombardi Trophy was presented, “they did lead us out onto the field so we could get a look and actually were able to thank many of the Packer players and coaches.”
Beisel-McIlwaine said she wore a pedometer on Super Bowl Sunday, and clocked 21,823 steps. Using the commonly accepted average of about 2,000 steps per mile, that translates to more than 10 miles, up and down steps and through crowded concourses.
“I’m 55 and fortunately in good shape and health, but I saw many in wheel chairs and one person on crutches,” she said.