NEWS

SuperSize Security

By Michael A. Gips

 

Tailgating party. The NFL Tailgating Party is an open event to be held in a parking lot near the stadium on game day. Many in attendance come in hopes of getting into the game--and don't--which can keep security busy trying to keep tempers down. When the game was held in Arizona a few years ago, for example, people became angry and verbally combative when a giant television screen set up for the event went on the fritz. While physical violence did not become an issue, "we want them to go away with a smile on their face," says Ahlerich. As of press time, he was studying whether television screens should be erected for the San Diego event.

The big game

All other events are just warm-ups for the big game. A major priority at the stadium will be access control.

The NFL and its partners will rely on a series of credentials for media and other guests, including tickets with sophisticated anticounterfeit features. Security personnel will be stationed at entryways to screen out gate-crashers and to keep out projectiles, alcohol, and weapons. To that end, they will conduct bag and bottle checks, patdowns, and additional checks (for which officers are specifically trained) if circumstances so warrant.

Bomb-sniffing dogs will be used to perform pregame checks of the stadium and possibly screen fans at gates in certain situations. Plans called for any such explosives-screening at the door to be invisible to the public, though that could change if a specific threat was made.

The NFL's Ahlerich says that there is a "broad concern about weapons coming in," which is always a consideration at the Super Bowl, even absent a specific threat. "Should there be a specific threat, certainly we would impose stepped up screening," he says. But Ahlerich adds that the threat is less than at certain other games because the Super Bowl is a prized ticket that draws an upscale crowd.

Beyond printing sophisticated tickets, the NFL will use an access control technique that worked well at last year's game in New Orleans. It will place undercover police officers inside the stadium to keep a close eye on ticket takers' movements--guarding the guardians at the gate--because it is the gatekeepers themselves who often attempt to let friends in after the event begins.

Access to different areas within the stadium will also be closely monitored. For example, thousands of reporters will be roaming the site, with varying levels of authority to enter places such as the locker rooms. To ensure that they do not stray into restricted locations, extra security officers will be posted to those areas to carefully inspect credentials.

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