Pittsburgh resident and Steelers fan Dan Powell felt fortunate to land tickets to Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6. It was a rare opportunity to see his team compete in person for a seventh championship on the NFL's biggest stage.
But Powell's Super Bowl experience was anything but super. In fact, it was awful. Powell was one of the reported 400 fans who purchased tickets but couldn't watch the game because of a seating issue at Cowboys Stadium.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Powell shared his Super Bowl experience with ESPN.com's AFC North blog.
"At no point during the whole thing did anyone come down and talk to us and told us what the story was," a disappointed Powell said. "Everything we know about it we read through the paper the next day or were looking through our phones online. ... No one had any info."
Powell said he entered Super Bowl week with extremely high expectations.
His father is a longtime Steelers season-ticket holder who won the lottery and was able to buy two Super Bowl tickets directly through the team at face value. Powell and his brother, Brad, jumped at the chance and bought two tickets for $800 each. The tickets were for Section 430A, Row 25.
Dan Powell and his brother arrived at Cowboys Stadium about four hours before kickoff in order to soak in the Super Bowl experience. They wanted to see the Steelers warm up, the pregame festivities and all the new stadium has to offer. But only delays and complications would follow.
"We waited in line for about an hour and a half to get through security, but we didn't really care about that because we were expecting to wait in line for that long," Powell said. "Then we get through all the security and gave our tickets to the people, and they said, 'Your tickets are no good.'"
From there it was a complete state of confusion, according to Powell. After talking to various people and getting little info, he was sent over to a ticket solution's booth near the Texas Rangers' baseball field.
"By this time it's about 4 p.m. [CT], so we sprint over there, and it's a hike," Powell said. "We get over there and we wait about 15 minutes or so before they come out and make an announcement. There's about a 1,000 people crowded around this little tent waiting and they kept saying, 'Somebody will have answers. Somebody will have answers.'
"Finally a guy comes out and says 'Your tickets have been reactivated. You all are good to go in.'"
So Powell and his brother sprint back to Cowboys Stadium to try to catch the little time there was left of the pregame atmosphere. It took another 45 minutes to get through security a second time, but the pair got in about 30 minutes before kickoff.
When Powell thought he'd made it through an already tough day, things got even worse when he got to his seats.
"We gave our tickets to the usher and she says, 'Sorry, everything above row 12 is closed. You can't go up there,'" Powell said, still flabbergasted days later.
The NFL deemed those seats unsafe due to an installation issue. Powell was among the unlucky few who owned a ticket in that area. Well after kickoff, some were relocated to "equal or better seats," according to the NFL. But Powell and his brother were among the reported 400 ticket holders forced to watch the game from a pair of sports bars in the basement of the stadium.
"It was two bars and they told us Steelers fans in one and Green Bay fans in the other," Powell said. "I don't know why they split us up. But at this point the game was about to start, and people down there as you could imagine were going crazy and screaming at anyone who would listen. Most of them were security guards and police who really couldn't do anything. I felt bad for them, actually, but I understood the people being angry."
Finally, a little before halftime representatives from the NFL entered the sports bar and passed out letters to ticketed fans. The letter stated a refund was due for three times the original value of the tickets and the fans would be granted entry to a hospitality area while at Cowboys Stadium, which is where the Powells already were.
It's been reported that special amenities were provided during Super Bowl XLV. But Powell says in his experience that wasn't the case.
"The NFL is acting like they treated us very, very well, like royalty or something," Powell said. "But they gave us no info. They said it was free food and drinks. There was absolutely no free food. I went to the bar and talked to the bartender in getting two free beers -- one for me and one for my brother. But that was at the bartender's discretion. So some people got them."
In total, Powell estimates he and his brother spent about $4,000 each on Super Bowl tickets, hotel, airfare, ground transportation, parking, food and entertainment. He said he would have much rather sat in a sports bar Sunday in Pittsburgh and had the same experience while saving thousands of dollars.
Reportedly the NFL plans to give Powell and others free tickets to Super Bowl XLVI next year in Indianapolis to make up for the huge error. But with no way of knowing the participating teams, Powell says it probably won't be the same.
"There's no guarantee the Steelers will be in another Super Bowl ever. But I wish they could give us a Super Bowl ticket next year and be guaranteed a ticket the next time the Steelers go," Powell said. "I wouldn't be real interested in seeing any other teams. I went to this Super Bowl strictly because the Steelers were in it."