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Some fans were left out in the cold

FOXBOROUGH -- When Jim Gingras of Woonsocket, R.I., finally made it into Gillette Stadium with about an hour to go before kickoff, the 20-year season ticket-holder was greeted by an unusual predicament: Not only were his seats in section 142 covered by snow but the entire section behind the North end zone was one big, white mess with only the top of a few seats poking through the snow.

Instead of complaining, carved a slim path to his seats in the middle of row 24, cleared the snow from his seat and settled in for what would be a long afternoon in frigid conditions.

"You just have to grin and bear it," Gingras said. "There's nothing you can do. I've had season tickets for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this."

Because of this weekend's storm that dropped more than 25 inches on Foxborough and continued to fall intermittently throughout the game, the conditions at and around Gillette Stadium caused problems, ranging from major traffic delays to buried seats.

Jim Nolan, vice president of operations at Gillette Stadium, said he had people working around the clock all weekend, but the severity of the storm made it too difficult to clear all the snow from the stadium.

"We did everything we could," Nolan said. "We had to make due with what we had and we had to focus on the public safety issues first."

Nolan said 66 percent of the parking spaces around the stadium were usable yesterday.

He added that groups of 150-200 people worked eight-hour shifts around the clock since Friday to prepare the stadium for the game.

The closings of the stadium parking lots, coupled with the closing of a number of independent lots, caused major delays in both directions on Route 1.

Some fans didn't make it to their seats until after the third quarter.

Inside the stadium, there was a 50-50 chance your seat would be covered in snow.

While most fans were up for the challenge of finding their seats, others weren't so impressed.

"For the money you pay they could have at least taken the time to clear this stuff out," said David Pitts of Brockton, who wasn't happy about searching through a snowbank to find his seat in Section 127. "They said on the news [Saturday] night that they had like 300 people working eight-hour shifts for 24 hours. Where did they go?"

Crews were scattered throughout the stadium right up until kickoff.

At 1 p.m. there were more than 50 workers in the two premium sections on either side of the field. Yet with no place to put the snow, the only option was to dump it on the seats below.

Shortly thereafter about 70 more people came in to help shovel the lower sections. The only problem: almost none of them had shovels.

Brandan Towers, an usher in Section 140, however, came prepared with a shovel. He helped dig out a pair of seats for Larry Jacobson and his 8-year-old son, Nick.

"I'm just going to do what I can," Towers said. "I've got a shovel so if I can help people I'm going to help people. People pay good money for these seats and I know that if I was sitting here I would be pretty upset if my seat was turned into a glacier."

Jacobson wasn't too concerned about the conditions.

"I know they are doing the best that they can," he said of the efforts to clear the stadium. "There's two feet of snow, what are you going to do? I think it will be fun."

Most of the aisles were covered by several inches of snow, which made it even more difficult to navigate around the stadium.

The tarp remained on the field until about 2:15, when it was slowly removed so players could test the conditions. Just before kickoff the field appeared to be in good condition, yet by the end of the first quarter when "Let it Snow" was played over the stadium speakers, the field was covered in the white stuff. Rather than sitting in a pile of snow for four quarters, most fans stood the entire game.

Following Tedy Bruschi's interception return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the crowd, in unison with the music blaring from the speakers, tossed snow into the air.

It created an incredible scene and served as a fitting finale for a wild day that saw the Patriots, with their 12-0 victory, wrap up the AFC East title.

"The fans have been unbelievable," Nolan said. "Their commitment is second to none."

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afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 11 2 0 .846 20.7 16.1
Dolphins 8 5 0 .615 18.5 15.6
Bills 6 7 0 .462 16.5 15.4
Jets 5 8 0 .385 18.5 19.6
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