SportsTampa Bay’s Big Game


Federal, local agencies partner with NORAD to protect Tampa Bay area for Super Bowl LV

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 17:39:00-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Some good news surrounding safety during Super Bowl week, the Tampa FBI conducted a threat assessment for the upcoming game, and so far, they say there are no specific threats in relation to the event.

Still, anytime a big event like this comes to town, there's a heightened level of security that has to come with it, and federal and local agencies are teaming up with NORAD to make sure everyone stays safe.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command protects our nation's skies every day of the year.

"We don't want any foreign, or any threat that's unknown, unrecognized, to cross into our U.S. borders," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alex Edwards, Commander of the 125th Fighter Wing Alert Detachment 1.

But when it comes to an event as large-scale as the Super Bowl, they're pulling federal and local agencies together to make sure things go off without a hitch.

"Locally, we've established an aviation security operation center that we will be monitoring all aviation events, whether it be a drone event or it be an aircraft," said Chris Shepherd, Chief Pilot for the Tampa Police Department.

They'll be keeping an eye on the sky, and helping those on the ground, too, vetting and reporting any suspicious aviation-related information that comes into their security operations center to the joint operations center to be further investigated.

Between the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, they'll constantly have a helicopter in the air monitoring things and give a birds-eye view to the agencies working on the ground.

"In addition to counterterrorism, we're also looking at stopping things like human trafficking, all the way up to and including, you know, drug transactions," said Ronald Hopper, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Tampa FBI.

When it comes to drones and aircraft, the FAA put temporary flight restrictions in place, some of which began Friday morning.

“Leave your drones home for this event,” said Hopper.

From Friday through Super Bowl Sunday, drones are prohibited within two nautical miles (2.3 miles) around Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park from the ground to an altitude of 2,000 feet from Friday, January 29, through Saturday, February 6, during event hours.

On game day, drones are prohibited within a mile of Raymond James Stadium.

Then starting around 5:30 p.m. EST on game day, the temporary flight restriction will extend to cover a 30 nautical mile (34.5 mile) ring, centered over the stadium and from the ground up to 18,000 feet in altitude. It will expire at 11:59 p.m. EST, but may be extended if conditions warrant. Drones also are prohibited inside the TFR.

The FAA urges drone pilots to check the their B4UFly app to determine when and where they may fly.

“Pilots or drone operators who violate the TFR, they will face civil penalties that could exceed $30,000,” said Michael O’Hara, with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The TFR will not affect regularly scheduled commercial flights at Tampa International Airport. Emergency, medical, public safety and military operations may fly in the TFR while it is in place, in coordination with air traffic control.

As tedious as planning may be, these agencies assure the public they’re ready.

“On Super Bowl Sunday, you watch the game, and we’ll watch the skies,” said Major Andrew Scott, with the 601st Air Operations Center.

And as is always the case, law enforcement urges if you see something suspicious, say something.