Super Bowl LII location, frigid temps complicate security efforts

Downtown Minneapolis has never seen this much security.

National Guard Humvees guard the entrance of the football stadium. Soldiers are joined by 3,000 local state and federal agents who are monitoring the crowds and Super Bowl party venues ahead of Sunday’s big game.

The Department of Homeland Security has designated Super Bowl LII a “Level 1 Special Event Assessment Rating,” recognizing its national and international significance and allowing for the pre-deployment of federal assets. 

Authorities have spent more than two years developing a security plan. They have coordinated with more than 100 agencies and tackled obstacles unique to the “Great North” – including the location of the game itself. 

A Homeland Security Blackhawk helicopter patrols the sky beside US Bank Stadium, home of this year's Super Bowl, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. February 1, 2018  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RC1848D9F1C0

Soldiers are joined by 300,000 local state and federal agents all monitoring the crowds and Super Bowl party venues ahead of Sunday’s big game.  (REUTERS)

Unlike Houston, home to last year’s game, where the stadium sits miles outside the city center on its own campus surrounded by massive parking lots, U.S. Bank Stadium is right in the heart of the city – an area vulnerable to vehicle or sniper attacks, with no room for extensive security fencing. 

Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher of the Minneapolis Police Department, the overall public safety coordinator for Super Bowl LII, said the location has complicated security plans.

“Here in Downtown Minneapolis, it’s surrounded by private buildings, there’s a hospital a block away. So it creates a lot of challenges. When you start looking at things like placing a security perimeter around the stadium, when you start looking at staging resources, whether those be public safety vehicles, or trucks, certainly it’s a bigger challenge with the NFL with all the equipment and things they have to bring to set up either inside or immediately outside U.S Bank Stadium.”

The FBI has a massive mobile command post staged just outside of town ready to roll toward the scene in the event of an attack or major incident. 

About 20 bomb techs have assembled in Minneapolis, with sophisticated equipment, including portable x-ray scanners to check suspicious bags and packages. 

The feds stress that there are no specific threats or signs of pre-game terror chatter. But the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis office, Richard Thornton, said nonetheless the security focus is sharp.

U.S. Bank Stadium, venue of this year's Super Bowl, as seen from a Department of Homeland Security Blackhawk helicopter that will be patrolling the skies during the game in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. January 29, 2018.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RC1A9DA01100

Unlike Houston, home to last year’s game, where the stadium sits miles outside the city center on its own campus surrounded by massive parking lots, U.S. Bank Stadium is right in the heart of the city – an area vulnerable to vehicle or sniper attacks, with no room for extensive security fencing.  (REUTERS)

“We are not sitting waiting for the phone to ring,” Thornton said. “We are looking at social media. We are contacting partners, looking at 911 dispatch. Our own holdings. All the ways we can gather info to suggest there could be something.”

The other major challenge is the weather, which was as low as minus 7 degrees on Friday, with a high in the single digits expected on Sunday.

The game is indoors but fans will be outside at least part of the time and law enforcement officials will have to layer up and take regular breaks to survive long shifts in frigid conditions.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo said he doesn’t mind if all the work by law enforcement goes unnoticed. 

“In the end, when folks fly out of here Sunday night after they find out who won the game” the chief told Fox News, “that is all I want them thinking about is the game.”