TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Miami’s Super Bowl is history. Now Tampa is on the clock for the next big game.
Only Miami, New Orleans and Los Angeles have hosted more Super Bowls than Tampa. The Super Bowl first came to Tampa in 1984 while Ronald Regan was president. Security was so loose, an employee at WFLA recalls walking straight into the old Tampa Stadium days before and taking photos with his brother on the field.
There is no chance this would happen in this day and age.
Security tightened by 1991 while the first Gulf War was underway. Screeners were set up outside of the stadium before Whitney Houston could sing one of the most memorable renditions of the national anthem.
In 2001, when the Baltimore Ravens beat the New York Giants, the entire area around the stadium had been secured with fencing and a massive presence by multiple law enforcement agencies.
Tampa last hosted the big game in 2009, keeping with the trend of super tight Super Bowl security.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says security will be a top priority when the city hosts the Super Bowl again in 2021.
“Of course we’re ready for a Super Bowl. You know we love hosting big events and we do it very well,” Castor said. “First and foremost, you have to secure the perimeter because that’s where you put your focus – not allowing any of those threats to enter into the stadium area.”
As a member of the Tampa Police Department, Castor was also involved in the planning for security the last time Tampa hosted the game.
Security experts say the extra precautions are necessary since an American Super Bowl is a high-value target for terrorist organizations.
“After 9/11, everything changed. We realized how vulnerable we were as a society everything changed. We realized how vulnerable we were as a society,” said retired FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier, who now works as a crime prevention consultant.
Couvertier helped plan security for the last Super Bowl in Tampa. He says the stadium will be well-protected again, but the numerous events associated with the Super Bowl present concerns.
“Because it’s not just one location, we actually have multiple situations or sights or venues that are going to be hosting the overall celebration of the event and that makes it even harder because you are not just trying to secure or harden one potential target, you’ve got several and in some cases you have hundreds,” Couvertier said.
“Security is always going to be the absolute top priority. Safety and security of our fans is of critical importance and we are so fortunate to have a lot of great agencies on the ground that are extremely focused on that,” said Rob Higgins, the head of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl host committee.
Watch Jeff Patterson’s full report on how Tampa is preparing for the Super Bowl tonight at 6 p.m. on News Channel 8.
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