Photo: Barry Brecheisen
“Well, it was two years of my life that I won’t get back, I can assure you that much,” said Jim Mercurio, VP of stadium operations and GM of Levi’s Stadium, which hosted the big game.
By all accounts, this year’s Super Bowl went off without a hitch. For viewers at home it may have seemed easy, but the panel was shown just how much went into keeping things secure: vehicle screening for explosives as well as biohazardous material, a secured 300-foot perimeter around the stadium, magnetometers for expedited metal-detection without wands, and a Qylatron automated, self-service bag screening.
“For all intents and purposes was a great event,” Mercurio said. “It took 15,000 employees and two years, and if not for some issues toward the end of the game for some of the employees that had to wait in buses a long time to get back to the facility, I would say it was perfect.”
Such a high-profile event does get to enjoy some perks, though.
“There are some advantages to working an event like the Super Bowl,” said Santa Clara Police Captain Phil Cooke, who was in charge of incident control at the event. “There was nothing I couldn’t ask for and get.”
There was one incident involving the temporary 30-mile radius flight restriction in place during the game. An incoming plane was not responding and eventually the call had to come from Washington for the intercepting F-16s to fire flares.
The pilot finally landed near Pleasanton and was promptly greeted by counter-terrorism forces via helicopter.
“The pilot just didn’t do what he was supposed to and had a big surprise that morning with the fighter jets,” Cooke said.
Not everyone has the resources required for the Super Bowl, but the panel had plenty of ideas for improvement that cost little or nothing.
Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center and accompanying L.A. Live venues, said venues of all sizes should establish personal relationships with local law enforcement, have table-top discussions with staff about any and every possible scenario, and not change security practices based on the night’s show or expected audience.
“I’m not going to be the one standing up there if a bomb goes off at a kids show because we didn’t do what we do at every other event,” Zeidman said. “We have the Grammys Monday night at Staples Center, and our security protocols, our security plans, are no different than anything else we do for a Laker game, or a circus, or a Disney on Ice show, it doesn’t make a difference.
“We do the same thing. We use everything at our disposal, because we believe that we are being watched, and if you don’t believe that people are watching your venues and how you are doing things, you are mistaken.”