Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Super Bowl LV didn’t bring the usual huge crowds of football fans to Tampa, Florida, but it was still all hands on deck at Tampa International Airport (TPA).
Immediately following the Super Bowl, TSA Tampa launched a 24-hour screening operation at all four airport security checkpoints and checked baggage. Transportation Security Manager (TSM) Charles Miller said his team continued the 24-hour operation until 8:30 p.m. on Monday, although the original plan was to end the post-Super Bowl screening schedule at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Because of the lower than average post-Super Bowl crowd, Miller said there wasn’t a need to go 24 hours for two full days. However, TSA Tampa was prepared.
“This was all hands on deck,” Miller said.
“I stood a 24-hour watch and slept in the office Sunday night after the game,” said Tampa Federal Security Director Kirk Skinner. “No way were we taking any chances with this event.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, just under 25,000 fans attended Sunday’s Super Bowl, well below the 66,000 capacity at Raymond James Stadium.
Miller said TSA officers at Tampa screened 25,396 passengers on Monday. That’s 28% less than the 35,372 passengers screened on the same day in 2020 when Tampa didn’t have a big game. However, he said the average over the ten Mondays prior to the Super Bowl was 17,807 and since October 1 was 16,790. So, passenger loads were higher than what TSA Tampa saw over the last several months.
It took total teamwork to make sure security at TPA and around the city of Tampa flowed smoothly.
“We incorporated canine teams from 19 civilian agencies and five airports to support security efforts at downtown [Super Bowl] venues and the Tampa airport,” said TSM David Stewart. “Explosive specialists, DHS police, communications from four airports and headquarters provided robust support for increased passenger throughput to mitigate risk.”
On top of that, Stewart said TSA collaborated with the NFL, Federal Aviation Administration, FBI, Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. TSA also partnered with 16 general aviation airports and law enforcement agencies to provide airspace security during the temporary flight restrictions imposed before, during and after the Super Bowl.
“This was a collaborative effort,” Miller emphasized. “The TSA staff at Tampa consistently displays a high level of teamwork, flexibility and dedication to the TSA mission.”
It was a special privilege for TSA to support Tampa and the big game.
“Since Tampa is my hometown, I enjoy the idea of Tampa being the center of the sports world,” said Miller. “This Super Bowl was special with the Buccaneers being the first home team to host and win the Super Bowl. Go Bucs!”
Skinner noted, “Tampa is now home to the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy, the NHL’s Stanley Cup, and the Rays didn’t win the World Series but were in it. The Tampa Bay Rowdies reached the United Soccer League championship game, and the Toronto Raptors are playing at least 17 games in Tampa due to COVID closing the [Canadian] border to almost all non-essential traffic. Tampa Bay is the home of champions, and that includes the TSA team!”