Security for Super Bowl nears that for Presidential address

Updated: January 28, 2008, 8:46 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- The police agencies responsible for patrolling the Super Bowl say they're not aware of any threat so far to the biggest single-day sporting event in the country, but they've organized a massive build up of security just in case.

FBI Special Agent John Lewis said Monday that authorities have heard only "what I would call fairly routine, very small incoming complaints about somebody wanting to do this or that.

"That's very typical in these types of cases," he said.

Nevertheless, with millions of people focused on the Super Bowl in Glendale, federal security officials have again designated the game a "level one" special event, just below President Bush's State of the Union address.

This year's Super Bowl festivities also will be complicated by another major sporting event, the FBR Open golf tournament, going on simultaneously in Scottsdale. Security agencies have been meeting for 15 months to ensure that they keep an organized watch over the entire metro area this week.

Glendale Police Lt. Matt Apodaca said more than 800 officers from numerous city agencies will patrol a 2-square-mile security zone around the University of Phoenix Stadium. Apodaca said officers on horseback, on foot and in motorized carts will mingle with fans who are attending the game and the NFL Experience, a weeklong festival nearby.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will bring packs of Labrador retrievers that are trained to sniff out compounds that are common among most explosives.

"We bring in our dogs because they are, quite frankly, the best in the federal government," ATF Special Agent Tom Mangan said.

Police also have installed security cameras throughout the stadium area. Overhead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft will circle the sky and give authorities a birds-eye view of what's going on.

U.S. Customs will intercept any threat from the air with Blackhawk helicopters and Citation jets based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, about 100 miles to the south in Tucson, said Ken Huffer, the Secret Service special agent in charge in Phoenix.

Huffer said federal authorities will enforce a 30-mile no-fly zone around the stadium below 22,000 feet on game day.

The no-fly zone overlaps with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, but Huffer said commercial pilots have been notified and should be able to work around the new security limits.

"I can assure you that there will be no interference with scheduled commercial aircraft," Huffer said.

Security officers will be feeding information to a Joint Operations Center in downtown Phoenix. Federal officials, along with representatives of police and fire departments, opened the center this week.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Commander Mike Orose, the liaison between local public safety agencies and the NFL, said the center will help distribute rescue crews in case there is an emergency.

If there is a bomb threat, an ATF response vehicle will be standing by near the stadium to analyze any possible explosive.

Security officials say they hope fans won't notice most of their efforts. But people attending the Super Bowl likely will have to deal with more restrictions than they're used to during the regular season.

Super Bowl officials said they will prohibit fans from entering the stadium with anything larger than a small purse or bag. They also won't allow any binocular and camera cases.

Pregame tailgaters also will be forbidden from much of the festivities they're used to.

Fans will be allowed to tailgate near their vehicles with their own food and drinks, but they won't be allowed to have grills. They're also not allowed to park in more than one parking spot or pitch tents in the parking lot.

Orose said authorities started working on security plans for the Super Bowl in November 2006.

They used this year's Fiesta Bowl as a dress rehearsal. "Our planning process, communications, the joint operations center -- it was really a whole combination of things that we wanted to test out," Orose said.

Orose said a joint operations center will be especially necessary for this year's Super Bowl because of the FBR Open and because the Super Bowl events are spread throughout the metro area.

The only comparable sporting event after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was the 2001 World Series in Phoenix, Orose said.

That was a huge event and had a lot of media coverage, but it occurred in just one location, Orose said. "The NFL and the Super Bowl is a weeklong event with a series of activities taking place across the" Phoenix area.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press