Former NFL executive Jim Steeg and Rick Nafe worked a pair of Super Bowls at old Tampa Stadium when Nafe was its director of operations.
The second of those two games came in 1991 during the Gulf War, which marked the first time NFL officials “really started to go through this concern about security” going into the Super Bowl, said Steeg, who for many years served as point man for the NFL championship game.
Ten days before the Super Bowl, the U.S. launched a massive aerial attack against Saddam Hussein’s forces in occupied Kuwait.
As a result, there was a late scramble to put additional security measures in place to safeguard the fans as well as the teams and everybody else involved in producing the world’s biggest one-day sporting event. Nafe was front and center for upgrading the procedures.
“We had pat-downs, which had never been done before … and that was the first time airspace was really locked down for an event,” Steeg said. “The big fight was Augie Busch (owner of Anheuser-Busch) was angry because the Budweiser blimp couldn’t fly over the stadium. He tried to go to President Bush to get it rescinded and Bush wouldn’t do it.”
Steeg said, “The thing that happened in 1991 that was so important with Rick being around is you didn’t have time to debate stuff — you just had to do it. We had to find overnight the barriers to put in place around the stadium. Now, there’s a 300-foot secured perimeter already in place. We had to make up our own perimeter … and we used the streets.”
On the Friday night before the Super Bowl, law enforcement got a report that somebody would steal a police car, fill it with bombs and drive it into the stadium. “Everybody kind of laughed about it and then all of a sudden on Saturday night, somebody stole a police car in St. Pete,” Steeg said.
“We ended up with volunteers from Tampa PD at every one of the gates coming into the parking lots,” he said. “They were lined up across the roadway. Thank God nothing ever happened with that. There were lots of details to put in place at the last minute, and Rick was a key part of that.”