hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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January 31, 2012

This year's Super Bowl stadium 'Disney friendly'

INDIANAPOLIS — Inside a private entrance to Lucas Oil Stadium is a poster taped to a window, bearing a large-lettered message: "Fans First!"

It's become the mantra for NFL Super Bowl executives who've vowed not to repeat in Indianapolis the Dallas debacle of a year ago.

Compelled by public shame – and a lawsuit – they've adopted a new Super Bowl initiative aimed at enchanting fans who are spending a small fortune on what those NFL executives call the "greatest sports event in the world."

And they turned to Disney to help them do it.

"We know we didn't do a tremendous job last year," said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president for events. "We want this year's experience to be world-class."

During a recent media tour of the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium, Supovitz spoke at length about what he described as the "postmortem" examination of last year's Super Bowl and the charm offensive the NFL has launched this year.

The NFL is still embarrassed by the seating scandal at Cowboys Stadium last Super Sunday: More than 3,000 fans arrived at the stadium only to be told their temporary seats were still under construction or too dangerous to be occupied.

Most seat-less fans ended up with a spot to see the game, plus cash payments and free tickets to this year's Super Bowl game. But some went home angry enough to file a lawsuit against the NFL.

But "that wasn't the only problem," Supovitz said.

The host city was caught off-guard by a nasty week of winter weather that paralyzed traffic. Snow falling from the stadium roof shut down 4 of the 10 entrances on game day. The NFL had no way to direct fans to other entrances, so some waited two hours in line just to get in. Some out-of-town fans went back home, postgame, griping about their lousy experience.

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