DALLAS – Super Bowl attendance could surpass 100,000 for the first time in 24 years when $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium debuts as host on Feb. 6.
Not all of those fans will have seats, or even be able to see the game in front of them. Still, the NFL says it will count "several thousand" Cowboys season ticket holders who pay $200 each to watch on TV from an outdoor plaza on the east end of the stadium in suburban Arlington.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday the plaza plan was a first for the Super Bowl, as was the league's intention to sell 350 standing-room-only tickets, presumably for areas on stair cases with good views of the field.
"We have never done this before in part because other host stadiums did not have the structure in place," McCarthy wrote in an e-mail. "Fans without tickets were not permitted on stadium grounds."
An estimated 93,000 fans will be inside the stadium. The last Super Bowl with more than 100,000 fans was in 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The record of 103,985 was set in 1980, also at the Rose Bowl.
The final number of seats inside the stadium and plaza tickets won't be known until closer to the game, McCarthy said.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made no secret of his desire to set a Super Bowl record when the stadium opened a year and a half ago, although the issue was out of his hands since the NFL makes all decisions regarding game operations.
Since then, the Cowboys set the NFL record for a regular season game when 105,121 watched the visiting New York Giants play Dallas. A year ago, the NBA All-Star game drew 108,713, the most ever for a basketball game.
Those records were set thanks to triple-deck plazas above each end zone, where standing-room-only fans were free to roam and watch from railings above the last row of seats. Those areas have been filled by temporary seating for the Super Bowl, boosting capacity above the stadium's standard of 80,000.