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Houston ramps up Super Bowl security

This Sunday's Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston has not been designated a "special security event" by Homeland Security, but city authorities are prepared and are on "high alert." NBC's Jim Cummins reports.
SECURITY SUPER BOWL HOFMAN JOYCE
Officials set up metal detectors outside of Reliant Stadium in Houston, the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII this Sunday.David J. Phillip / AP
/ Source: NBC News

Even though this Sunday's Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston has not been designated a "special security event" by federal Homeland Security officials, city authorities have been told by the feds to remain on "high alert" throughout the weekend.

That means fences, concrete barriers, bomb sweeps, metal detectors, restricted air space, up to 25 police agencies enforcing security and surveillance cameras on every face within 300 feet of Reliant Stadium on Sunday.

In other words — "police state" security like the kind that would be implemented under the highest alert status, "level red."

Reliant Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 70,000, is surrounded by concrete barriers meant to create a safety zone 300 feet wide.

There are four main entry points to the stadium. On game day, all of them will be equipped with metal detectors to screen every fan and member of the media who comes to the game.

Stadium workers move barricades outside Reliant Stadium in Houston, Monday Jan. 26, 2004. Super Bowl XXXVIII, between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, will take place on Sunday, Feb. 1 at Reliant Stadium. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)Amy Sancetta / AP

There will be about 30 bomb-sniffing dogs from the Houston police canine corps prowling seating areas and the perimeter looking for anything suspicious.

In the parking lots, police police will use special trucks to screen vehicles for explosives.

Houston PD in charge, with plenty of help
The Houston Police Department is the lead law enforcement agency at the Super Bowl, but it will get plenty of help from federal and state agents.

SWAT teams have been training for weeks to learn different techniques to deter terrorists, and the Coast Guard has increased its patrols of the city's port. The petro-chemical plants along the Houston ship channel are considered a prime target for terrorists and an attack there could be devastating.

Assistant Police Chief Dennis Storemski said authorities "don't expect trouble" and "there has been no specific threat." But they are planning for the worst.

Since the Super Bowl is seen by more than a 100 million people worldwide, Storemski believes that makes it a tempting target for terrorists because "those groups want to make a statement" in front of the largest possible audience.

Security beyond stadium
The intense security goes beyond the football stadium and game day.

There also will be increased police surveillance at all the outdoor Super Bowl parties planned for downtown Houston this week. The police plan to screen cab drivers and hotel personnel. 

Finally, on Super Bowl Sunday there will be a "no-fly zone" in and around the stadium.

All of this added security will cost millions of dollars. The city expects to spend at least $1.2 million in police overtime alone. Is it worth it? You bet -- as far as the city is concerned.

The National Football League estimates the Super Bowl will generate at least $300 million in revenue for Houston's economy. The cost of a ticket to the game alone is $400.

Oh yes — the reason for the security and hoopla: There will be a football game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. Kickoff is at 6:25 p.m. EST.