Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK — On Thursday, the NFL will begin construction of a double chain link and jersey barricade fence nearly 4 miles long. Ultimately, it will encircle MetLife Stadium and a 300-foot buffer in all directions, as well as the Izod Center and the power station that feeds them both, and the fence will serve as the security perimeter for the nation’s biggest game, the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
“The NFL has been thinking about the security of the Super Bowl since its very beginning, but particularly after 9/11,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL vice president of events. “It is a Level 1 national security event as designated by the federal government.”
It’s been that way since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This year, the Super Bowl visits the New York/New Jersey region for the first time, but with some stringent security procedures that have been worked out and perfected since those horrific events.
For example, the power station will be inside the security perimeter, unlike last year in New Orleans, which was an issue during the blackout in the third quarter.
“The stadium itself undergoes a transformation into a more secure environment,” Supovitz said. “There’s a VACIS, or vehicle and cargo inspection system. It’s basically an MRI for shipped stuff that’s in an undisclosed area near the stadium. That’s where any truck that delivers anything for the Super Bowl will be screened. They have to be on a manifest, they have to be inspected. They’re approved, and then they can drive into the perimeter.
“Most everything that needs to be in the stadium on game day needs to be there by Friday. Golf carts, generators, fuel, literally anything has to be in that perimeter, has to have been inspected.”
On game day, there will be seven access points for fans and staff, and they involve going through one of 130 total magnetometers at one of seven welcome pavilions the league will erect around the perimeter.
All the parking lots are outside the perimeter, so ticket holders’ cars don’t have to undergo the same scrutiny. Fans will be limited in what they can take into the stadium, just like during the regular season this year. Each ticket holder can have a clear plastic bag for personal belongings but no backpacks or large purses.
“[The Level 1 designation] requires us to take some extraordinary steps in terms of screening not just people coming to the game, but the people who are working at the game,” Supovitz said. “Everyone undergoes FBI background checks. I’m actually in the process today of going through all the credential applications we’ve gotten so far, and we’ll get 20,000 of them. Not all of them on game day, but it’s 20,000.
“Every one of those members of the staff, whether they’re at Radio City Music Hall [for an awards show], of staff at media day at the Prudential Center or staff at the Izod Center for [the pregame party] NFL on Location, are background-checked by the FBI.”
Those are just some of the events the league is staffing in the area before the main event.
There are 80,000 fans expected at the game, plus an estimated 400,000 who could hit the region for pregame parties and other happenings. It’s impossible to secure everything, but with its offices on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, the NFL is making security one of the priorities.
It is, after all, a home game for the league.