What it looks like in Inglewood, Calif., as the city prepares to host the Super Bowl
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
How does a city get ready for some 70,000 people to come over? That's what officials in Southern California are doing as the region hosts its first Super Bowl in 29 years on Sunday at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. Matt Dangelantonio, from member station KPCC, tells us about the preparations.
MATT DANGELANTONIO, BYLINE: The lunch rush is just dying down inside Casa Rios restaurant in Inglewood, just days before Super Bowl LVI kicks off at SoFi Stadium across the street. Owner Livi Munoz tells me over a plate of steak picado that her restaurant is always a popular spot for fans before and after Rams and Chargers home games.
LIVI MUNOZ: (Through interpreter) Every time there's a game, it's always a full house. We already know what our customers want, what they want to drink and what times will be really busy with people coming in.
DANGELANTONIO: And as ready as we can be seems to be the common thread leading up to the Super Bowl, whether you ask local business owners or the people planning the event itself.
KATHY SCHLOESSMAN: It's been a crazy week.
DANGELANTONIO: Kathy Schloessman is CEO of the Los Angeles Super Bowl Host Committee, which has led planning the event.
SCHLOESSMAN: We won it in May of 2016, but really our crew full time's been working on it for two years.
DANGELANTONIO: And planning a Super Bowl during a global pandemic is a huge challenge. Organizers are trying to ensure the health and safety of the nearly 70,000 fans expected to pack into SoFi Stadium. Proof of vaccination or a negative test result and masks are required. The NFL is providing free KN95s.
LA County Public Health Department Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer says given omicron, now isn't the time to loosen safety protocols.
BARBARA FERRER: It's absolutely essential when you're really experiencing this much community transmission to add in an additional layer of protection.
DANGELANTONIO: Then there's the security, the scale of which Inglewood Mayor James Butts says is unprecedented.
JAMES BUTTS: This is going to be the largest public safety deployment for an event in the history of the city of Inglewood.
DANGELANTONIO: And that's saying something. Inglewood has hosted all kinds of major events. The Lakers used to play nearby at the Forum starting in the late 1960s.
The Department of Homeland Security said this week it has no information on credible threats to the game, but it did issue a bulletin warning that traveling trucker convoys protesting vaccine mandates could block traffic around the stadium. LA Sheriff Special Operations Chief Jack Ewell says 400 people from his agency are working the game.
JACK EWELL: Human trafficking specialists, crowd management specialists, hazmat personnel, tactical teams, tactical paramedics and K-9 units.
DANGELANTONIO: They'll team with Inglewood and Los Angeles police, the Secret Service, Homeland Security and others.
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DANGELANTONIO: Back at Casa Rios restaurant in Inglewood, Livi Munoz admits to feeling a little pressure, too.
MUNOZ: (Through interpreter) Yes, I do feel a bit nervous. We're working so hard in the kitchen to get ready. We have to make sure we have enough servers so that people won't come in and then leave because we can't serve them.
DANGELANTONIO: Sentiment shared by much of Southern California, hoping Sunday will be the first of many Super Bowls at SoFi Stadium.
For NPR News, I'm Matt Dangelantonio in Inglewood, Calif.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE HOLYDRUG COUPLE SONG, "AMPHITRITES LOST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.