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Many Reasons to Feel Secure

Although the big game isn't a national security event, officials say they are taking every precaution.

January 25, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Airspace above Qualcomm Stadium will be restricted. Everyone who enters the stadium will be required to pass through magnetometers and X-ray screening machines. Parking is not allowed in the lot. And a bio-terrorism team will be on the premises.

"We're prepared for everything and anything," Sgt. Elsa Castillo of the San Diego Police Department said of the measures taken to ensure a safe Super Bowl XXXVII on Sunday.

Those protections will result in the undressing of Raider Nation.

Any hopes Raider fans have of turning the stadium into a version of the Black Hole will have to be done without the elaborate costumes so many of them don at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland.

In a news conference conducted Thursday, Milt Ahlerich, the NFL's vice president of security, said metal objects are banned, while adding, "If it's much bigger than a small purse or bag, leave it at your home or in your car."

Fans will have two choices about what to do with confiscated items: throw them in the trash or take the items out of the stadium.

The second alternative is not pleasant, considering 95% of the spectators will be transported into the stadium by trolley or bus. Only private vehicles with an issued parking permit will be allowed in Qualcomm's lot.

"As is understandable since 9/11, we want to have high security and be sure we take all of the precautions, and restricting parking access reduces risks," Castillo said. "It gives us better control of where people are parked and it minimizes the area our officers have to patrol."

Unlike last year's Super Bowl and the 2002 Olympics, this game does not qualify as a national security event. Local law authorities will direct game security, not the Secret Service.

"Security is going to be a fact of life for the country for a long time," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "We've had tremendous support from the federal government, [Homeland Security] Director [Tom] Ridge, the FBI, the state of California and the San Diego Police Department, so we're very comfortable with the security here."

Castillo would not confirm the costs of securing the Super Bowl, but acknowledged an estimated 120 police officers would be assigned to stadium security -- triple the total usually sent to a San Diego Charger game.

The screening machines at the turnstiles will be similar to those used at airports.

"It will be a tight inspection, and people should know if they have items that will be confiscated, it will delay them from watching all of the pre-game activities," Castillo said.

The no-fly zone will restrict non-military and law enforcement aircraft, including blimps, from a large designated area surrounding the stadium for several hours. A similar measure was taken for the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Additionally, members of the San Diego Fire Department and a hazardous materials unit who attended the recent Biotech convention held in San Diego are trained and equipped to respond quickly should a group or individual attempt bio-terrorism.

Should a catastrophe or emergency develop, a response team connected to the Navy's INFRALYNX team has been retained to ensure the government's communications infrastructure remains intact.

"We don't see anything happening, but it's available if needed," said Forrest C. Wheat, president and chief executive of Wheat Wireless.

San Diego Police Capt. Joel Bryden repeated a common disclaimer attached to beefed-up security events: "If we all travel early, allow plenty of time to get where we are going and are patient, courteous and treat everyone with respect, we'll have another great event to look back on with pride."

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