The Cowboys plan to reduce the number of standing room only tickets by two-thirds after crowds became unruly Sunday night when they weren't allowed into the stadium.
Assistant Fire Chief Don Crowson said Cowboys officials agreed Monday to sell only about 10,000 of the Party Passes to future games although there could be a few exceptions. Team officials said previously that they sold 30,000 of these $29 tickets to Sunday's game, which was the Cowboys first regular-season match up at their new stadium in Arlington. The attendance of 105,121 was a record for a regular season NFL game.
As the kick off approached Sunday night, Cowboys and public safety officials decided to stop trying to control the flow of fans into the end zone decks when the crowds became angry.
"We believe that it was a better decision to go ahead and let people in versus confronting them in a situation out the plaza based on the how the crowd dynamic was evolving," Crowson said.
Although the stadium wasn't truly closed, Crowson said the number of fans allowed into the end zone decks slowed as the stadium approached capacity. That happened as the start of the game was getting close.
Many people with standing room only tickets quickly became hostile and threw plastic bottles and pounded on glass doors.
Crowson said a committee of police and fire officials and Cowboys staff decided to remove the gates between the decks and plazas to allow fans to move freely and reduce the chances of confrontation.
Brett Daniels, a Cowboys spokesman, said he doesn't believe the team oversold the Party Passes, but he said this type of crowd isn't typical. He said that about 8,000 have been sold for next week's Monday night game.
"It's a once in a lifetime game," Daniels said.
However, he said the Cowboys could have a crowd closer to this size for some special events but that would be rare. Daniels said that things went more smoothly once fans could move freely between the deck and plaza, which is what they had predicted.
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said he agreed with the committee's decision.
"It's something that we had to do," he said. "I think they had no choice."
Cluck said cutting down on the number of Party Passes sold should prevent this from happening again.
Crowson said many fans apparently didn't realize the limitations of the Party Passes. The Cowboys sent an e-mail to those who bought those tickets to explain how they worked.
"Some party pass areas of the stadium may fill to capacity," the e-mail said. "When that occurs, you will no longer be provided access to those specific areas. In such an instance, you may be asked to move to an area with available space (including the plazas). With that in mind, we have designed outdoor bars and very large video screens with live broadcasts of the game on the plazas just outside the party decks."
Crowson said many fans didn't realize that their tickets did not guarantee them space inside the stadium walls. Those Party Passes only assured them access to the 7 acres of plazas just outside the end zone doors.
Crowson said the fire department has planned for every possible incident at the stadium from severe weather to crowd dynamics like they saw Sunday. However, he said they made some assumptions before the weekend that didn't work out.
"Our belief was that people understood what a Party Pass entailed," Crowson said. "But crowds determine their own directions and actions."