About 1,700 law officers and another 1,000 security guards were put in place to maintain security at Tampa Stadium for Sunday’s Super Bowl.
A 6-foot-high chain-link fence and concrete barriers fortified the stadium grounds. Bomb squads, accompanied by specially trained dogs, SWAT teams, ambulances and holding centers were visible. Military helicopters circled overhead.
“We have gone through every possible what-if over and over again,” said Bob Smith, the Tampa director of public safety. No incidents were reported.
Police, Army and Coast Guard helicopters circled the stadium. All other aircraft, including a television blimp, were prohibited from flying over the stadium from noon until midnight.
A mounted policeman, a small American flag sticking out of his boot, watched early arrivals line up at one of the stadium gates.
The 74,000-plus fans were examined by metal detectors and in some cases searched before entering the stadium.
“For an American event, this is real unusual,” officer Brian Seely of the Tampa police said. “Usually Americans don’t take to being searched or stopped. We’re getting real good cooperation. People pretty well accept everything we’re doing.”
Lines began forming outside the stadium gates about an hour before they opened. Cars entering the stadium were delayed for about an hour while they were searched.
Fans were warned not to bring cameras, radios, televisions, paging devices or even umbrellas to the game.
Larry Marino of Saddlebrook, N.J., and his son were stopped at the gate because they each carried 2-foot-by-4-foot American flags.
“I can’t believe anyone would be upset about carrying an American flag in there,” he said.
The guard said the flags were turned away because of their size.
Smaller flags, 4 inches by 6 inches, were handed out to the 74,000 people attending the game.
“We have absolutely no reason to expect trouble. We want to make sure there is no chance of any trouble,” said Jim Heffernan, director of public relations for the NFL, which took the extra precautions because of the possibility of terrorism.
Outside the stadium, Steve Buck, dressed in a red, white, and blue Uncle Sam suit and top hat, sold Desert Storm pins and yellow ribbons.
“Sales are very good, fantastic,” Buck said. “I expect to sell several thousand. Everybody wants something to show they support the troops.”
Fans agreed with the decision to play the game.
“I think it’s great,” said Muriel Kuehn of Ft. Myers, Fla.
“Life goes on. We love our boys over there and we’re praying for them, but life goes on. We don’t stop things because of a foreign dictator.”
Said Harold Arlen, 58, of Bridgewater, N.J.: “I’m real glad to see all the security. The more the better. I was kind of worried about coming to the game in the beginning. This may be the safest place in the world today.”
Helen McBride, 44, of Tampa said she gave her tickets to friends after the war in the Persian Gulf broke out.
“It’s just not worth the risk,” she said. “Maybe if my team was in it, I’d take the chance. But both of these teams are from out of town, so I’ll watch it on TV.”