With orange alerts and intelligence chatter about simultaneous terror attacks against targets that could include major sporting events, tight security again will be the order of the day at the Fiesta and Insight bowls.
Bowl fans who attended the games last year may recognize the extra security measures: Bag checks at the gates, restricted parking around the stadiums and additional uniformed police.
But, in keeping with the mood since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security kicked up the national terrorist warning system to orange on Sunday, secrecy surrounds much of the security details.
"The orange alert will cause some differences (in security) . . . but I’m not at liberty to discuss them," said Keith Jennings, a spokesman for Arizona State University and its police force, which will be present Jan. 2 inside Sun Devil Stadium for the Fiesta Bowl.
About 40,000 people are expected to attend the Insight Bowl at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix on Friday, and roughly 73,500 at the sold-out Tempe Fiesta Bowl.
Add 150,000 who typically attend the accompanying Fiesta Bowl block party events from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2, said Shawn Schoeffler, a spokesman for the event.
There are no specific threats, but the Los Angeles Times recently quoted one FBI official saying the intelligence included vague references to major cities, bowl games and New Year’s events.
A recent FBI warning also said the al-Qaida terrorist network may be preparing an attack in the United States before the end of the month.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers will patrol inside Sun Devil stadium, and Tempe police will be outside.
Last year, added security included mounted police, street officers in full body armor and rooftop snipers.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Allen MacPherson said about 30 plainclothes and uniformed deputies will be on duty inside Bank One Ballpark for the Insight Bowl.
Phoenix police are handling security outside, said Phoenix police Sgt. Lauri Williams.
Explosive-detecting dogs will mingle with the crowds, security officials will check bags and backpacks and meters will be bagged to control parking in key areas, Williams said.
"They’ve been doing that since 9/11," she said. "With the heightened alert we’ll be pretty vigilant."
The FBI will be coordinating security with the local law enforcement agencies, and its Joint Terrorism Task Force will be ready to respond to any threat, said FBI spokeswoman Susan Herskovits.
"We’re concerned with the threat level, but we prepare for these events all the time," Herskovits said.
"We feel like we’re prepared," she said.