Redskins fans left feeling blocked out in new seats

Pillars obstruct view for some in lower level

September 04, 2004|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - The concrete pillar in Section 223 was wider than an offensive tackle.

And as far as Washington Redskins fan Dennis Frye was concerned, it was fulfilling the same basic function as a lineman last night.

It was blocking.

Frye, of Burke, Va., was among a group of fans who accepted an offer from the team during the offseason to move their seats from the upper bowl of FedEx Field to 4,000 newly created seats in the back of the lower bowl.

Frye said he was told by the team "that there might be an obstruction. But you never think it's going to be this bad. From one of my seats you can't see from the 15 [-yard line] to the end zone. At least upstairs you can see the whole thing."

Frye saw his three new seats for the first time during Washington's preseason game last night against the Atlanta Falcons.

The obstructed seats have become a hot topic among fans during the preseason on sports talk radio and on the Internet.

The team says it didn't deceive fans. Its says ticket holders were apprised of any obstructions before the seats were sold, and were asked to inspect the seats before purchasing them. Those that did not come were offered a computerized drawing of the seating area, the team said.

But some fans were left to wonder why, with today's technology, any stadium needs to include seats where the sight lines are partially blocked. In some old baseball stadiums, obstructed seats - like hand-operated scoreboards - possess a certain charm.

But at FedEx Field, which opened in 1997, "the idea of obstructed seating drives me nuts," said Redskins fan Mark Steven of Woodbridge, Va. "If I go to a movie and somebody with a big head sits in front of me, I'm not happy."

Steven, who attended last night's game, did not have an obstructed view and says "I wouldn't buy one of those."

The team strategically placed TV monitors around sections where some fans' views are partially screened.

The new seats raised the capacity at the stadium to 91,665, the largest in the league.

The Redskins say the new seats were originally planned when the team made a bid, which was rejected, to host a future Super Bowl. The idea was shelved until Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs decided to return during the offseason.

"When Gibbs announced plans to come back, fan interest spiked and we put it back on the shelf," said team spokesman Karl Swanson. "When you've got 105,000 accounts on a waiting list, you do what you can to accommodate them. In our mailings, we stressed limited-view seating."

Several fans in Section 223 said they weren't able to see their seats in person before purchasing them because the new sections weren't yet completed when the seats were offered in letters from the team.

Frye said he plans to complain about his seats Monday, and that he didn't mind having his name appear in a newspaper article because he already had obscured views, "so what are they going to do to me?"

Swanson said the team would accommodate fans as best it can.

Not all fans in Frye's section were complaining.

Wil Rice of Frederick said he accepted one of the seats so he could be downstairs. He had previously sat on the aisle in the upper deck and said his view was often blocked by fans walking up and back from the concourse.

From Rice's new seat, a section of one of the end zones was blocked. "It's still better than Section 423 on the aisle," he said.

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