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Fans Irked Over FedEx Seats

By Thomas Heath and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 26, 2004; Page D01

Several Washington Redskins fans have complained that the views from newly installed lower bowl seats at FedEx Field are much worse than they were led to believe by the team's sales staff earlier this year and said they have asked that the team move them to better locations with unobstructed views.

Other fans have complained that they were urged by Redskins sales staff to buy the tickets sight unseen because the seats had not yet been installed, which appears to contradict statements from Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson two weeks ago that fans were allowed to visit the stadium and sit in the seats prior to purchase.

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"I asked if I could see where [the tickets] would be," said Rich Langguth, a retired supervisor with the National Science Foundation who lives in Burke. Langguth has had upper-level season tickets since the Redskins moved to FedEx Field in 1997. "They said there was no way to view [the new seats] and they aren't going to hold the seats. I could take them or pass."

Langguth's two seats, priced at $69 each, are among 4,000 new general admission seats that were created by adding 10 rows to the back of the lower bowl section that rings the north half of the stadium. They are tucked under the premium club seats. Giant pillars block the view from a number of the new sets, which are built on metal risers. Dozens of flat screen televisions and speakers have been installed to compensate for the obstructed views.

Swanson said this week that the Redskins have heard complaints from unhappy fans, and he suggested that they call the ticket office to see what can be done. He said there was no intent to mislead anyone and that every ticket buyer should have been told they could see a mockup of the new seats.

"We had a script and whenever anyone called, our people at the stadium ticket office made that offer but also stressed that this is something we need to do in the next day or two because we can't hold the seats for weeks and weeks and weeks," Swanson said. "Hundreds of people came out and saw the seats."

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder installed the new seats to take advantage of the increased ticket demand that accompanied the return of Coach Joe Gibbs, who was coaxed out of retirement after having steered the Redskins to three Super Bowl victories during the 1980s and '90s. Gibbs was hired in January for more than $5 million a year.

FedEx Field, which was built with private funds by the late Jack Kent Cooke, is the NFL's biggest stadium, with a capacity of 91,665. Through stadium expansion, marketing and merchandise sales, the Redskins have become one of the highest-grossing teams in all of professional sports.

Other fans who asked that their names not appear in the newspaper said they were disappointed with the new seats and were working with the Redskins to find better seats. The new seats also have become a hot topic on Internet message boards, with some fans criticizing Snyder for selling obstructed-view seats in the first place.

One fan, who asked that his name not be used, said his sightlines were not obstructed but complained that he couldn't see the scoreboard and that the overhang caused the ball to disappear from view during passes, kickoffs and punts. Fans also complained that the television monitors installed by the Redskins did not contain the score, down and distance for a first down.

Swanson said the wiring was not completed in time for the first preseason game on Aug. 14 but that the statistics would accompany the live game action on those monitors from now on.

Langguth, 59, said he gave up his upper-deck seats in section 452 priced at $59 per seat in order to move to the lower bowl, where his seats cost him $69 apiece. He said he was told the lower bowl seats had a "limited view," but was told only part of the end zone would be obscurred. He said he was also told he would not see the scoreboard, high passes or punts.

When he arrived at the Redskins-Carolina Panthers game two weeks ago, he sat down in his new seats and found a pillar blocking the entire midfield between the 35-yard lines.

"I said something's got to be wrong here," Langguth said. "I'm supposed to have a clear view of the field, and all I can see is a column."

Langguth said he has talked to the sales staff and they told him that refunds were not allowed.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company