Super Bowl LVII and WM Phoenix Open on the same weekend calls for safety plans from many agencies

Hundreds of thousands of football fans are expected to be in the Phoenix area for Super Bowl LVII as the big game is taking place in Glendale in February 2023.

That same weekend, nearly a million fans will be in Scottsdale for the WM Phoenix Open.

With all those people filling up the Valley, how do we keep everyone safe?

We're taking a behind-the-scenes look at the safety measures going into place and how law enforcement will be handling the surge in visitors.

Super Bowl LVII and WM Phoenix Open

"The Super Bowl is going to be a focal point in the world really," said Glendale Police Commander Brandon Blanco.

When Arizona hosted the Super Bowl in 2015, 120,000 out-of-state visitors flooded the Valley. This time, we could top that.

State Farm Stadium can hold almost 80,000 people, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety is responsible for the interior of the venue. Another tens of thousands of football fans from around the world will fill the exterior area of the stadium in Glendale, and the safety of that crowd is on the Glendale Police Department.

"We host many special events, but this is the largest. Just the draw on resources, manpower," Blanco said.

He's in charge of special operations, tasked with making sure the event runs smoothly. The department has been working on the plan since the last Super Bowl wrapped up. Organizing and planning where exactly to put both uniformed and plain clothes officers on Feb 12. 

"For the Super Bowl, the exterior, just the exterior is roughly 300 on game day. I’m saying the interior is probably going to be pushing 180, so almost 500," Blanco said, referring to the number of officers who will be on patrol.

Twenty-six "Resource Work Groups" have been specifically created for Super Bowl 2023. From traffic, hazmat, to cybersecurity, each group has a job and not just for game day, but for game week.

Blanco says agencies across the Valley are contributing. Law enforcement, the FBI, Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol will also be stepping in to help.

Arizona will certainly need all hands on deck for what could very well be the busiest weekend the Valley has ever seen with the Super Bowl and the WM Phoenix Open happening simultaneously.

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Safety planning for the Super Bowl and WM Phoenix Open come February 2023. These are the Resource Work Groups

How mounted units prepare for large crowds

Over in the East Valley, the Scottsdale Police Department is also preparing.

Sgt. Greg Mastin is responsible for the Scottsdale Mounted Unit. Their specialty is crowd control.

"We’re going to have a lot of people, not just Open people, but Super Bowl people also are going to stay at the resorts in Scottsdale and everywhere else. They’re going to come downtown and deal with the bar scene down there. So I think we’re just going to have a lot more people than we typically do for a normal weekend or even just a normal Phoenix Open weekend," Mastin said.

Why horses?

He says a horse generally is about as effective as ten officers if you’re trying to move a crowd.

The horses are hand selected for the job and then highly trained. Animals of prey with an instinct to flee danger, they can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year to be ready for patrol.

It involves constant sensory training and practice moving crowds.

"Sometimes in training, we’ll do a lot bigger crowds. We’ll do a full mobile field force type thing where the bike officers, the field officers, everybody shows up, and the horses come, and we do like a whole thing," Mastin said.

Almost every weekend, the teams patrol the downtown Scottsdale area, on standby when the bars close, breaking up fights and removing overly intoxicated people when needed.

"It depends on the crowd and the mood that they’re in. A happy crowd could easily turn ugly pretty quick and then we kind of have to move into that mode," Mastin explained.

They will be overseeing crowd control for the Phoenix Open and the bar scene on Super Bowl weekend.

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Scottsdale Police Mounted Unit

‘We expect the unexpected'

With out-of-state visitors expected all over, Sgt. Damon Despain with the Tempe Police Department Mounted Unit is echoing the same message.

"For that week, the Valley will be kind of the spotlight for the country in a lot of ways. For the police department, our job is just to make sure everybody is safe, everything goes smoothly," he said.

Previously, the Valley's three mounted units have been called in to monitor the Fiesta Bowl, right at the center of all the action. That's 20 horses from Tempe, Scottsdale and MCSO mounted units.

It's something the officers say they could be called in for again come February.

"When we’re on horseback, we’re ten feet tall. We can see the crowds and see what’s going on and people can see us," Despain said.

When it comes to the public safety of such a large-scale weekend, no idea is off the table and safety plans are always evolving.

"We expect the unexpected, and we prepare for that," Glendale Police Commander Brandon Blanco assured.

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WM Phoenix Open concert crowd