Standing on the sidelines, I hear the sounds of Lady Gaga’s version of the national anthem end and the Blue Angels fly overhead as the teams move onto the field. Outside, the stadium footprint has been expanded to include on-site sponsor, corporate, and fan events with temporary structures and fan plazas; large broadcast and entertainment compounds for national and international media, pregame shows, and halftime shows; and compounds for security, medical, and public safety resources. This footprint is surrounded by a 300-foot buffer zone and enclosed with a hardened secure perimeter with access through high-security entrances with bag checks, security wands, metal detectors, X-ray machines, and sniffing dog teams. Well-armed security teams rove both inside and outside the perimeter. Vehicles that need to enter the perimeter must be sanitized and go through the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System, which applies imaging and radiation scanning to a vehicle prior to entry. Air is constantly sampled for nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiation levels. One can’t help but think of the long process of planning, implementation, and problem-solving that brought us to this point, and the game hasn’t even started.
This is a sporting event like no other. The Super Bowl is a National Special Security Event and a national icon for the United States. That also makes it a terrorist target. A multidisciplinary group of experts in events production and management, sports architecture, security, public safety, emergency medical services (EMS), transportation, medical, information technology, marketing, social media, public health, and construction, to name a few, work on the multiple and complex issues required to produce the game for more than a year. This planning occurs in conjunction with more than 30 federal agencies, multiple local jurisdictions, and state and local agencies. Collaboration and coordination are everything.
The game itself was just one part of a larger set of Super Bowl 50–related events. Super Bowl City fan fest, the long “50th Mile” interactive display, the multiday NFL Experience with active fan participation in games and drills, large media and sponsor events, team practices and movements, nightly festivals, and local festivities all impacted the region for more than a week. For Super Bowl 50, the geographic footprint in California was expansive, from north of San Francisco to San Jose in the south, with the stadium in Santa Clara. Travel time alone was more than an hour on a good day. To stay coordinated, daily video meetings occurred between key sites, communications centers gathered and shared information among key contacts (and set up issue-resolution calls on the fly), and evening debriefings transpired.