Excitement builds in Houston in preparation for Super Bowl LI

Preparations for Super Bowl LI continue to take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 3, 2017. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday at NRG Stadium. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 4 (UPI) — Massive crowds descended on downtown Houston as the city prepared to host Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

Thousands of people traveled from across the country to attend the big game at NRG Stadium, take part in NFL Experience activities and visit local attractions such as Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center, KHOU reported.

Sabrina Youngblood and her twin sister, Katrina Thompkins, spent $2,000 to watch the Falcons play in Sunday’s game.

“This was on our bucket list,” Youngblood said.

While revelers are enjoying the game, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters will monitor the skies above the Super Bowl stadium on Sunday, as air travel will be restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration in a 30-mile radius around NRG Stadium.

On the ground, Houston police plan to have more hidden security to provide a less obvious presence than past Super Bowls.

“You will see a very heavy law enforcement presence, but you should also know there will be law enforcement that you won’t see,” Francisco Sanchez, of Harris County Emergency Management Center, told CBS News.

About 800 volunteers will join 60 local, state and federal agencies to coordinate security behind the scenes.

“They’re additional eyes and ears,” CEO of Harris County Metro Tom Lambert said. “If they see something that is not in line with how we normally operate, to make sure that they’re notifying it to the Metro police, and we’ll coordinate that with the Houston police and all of our other partners.”

Grammy Award winning artist Bruno Mars kicked off one of the city’s many pre-Super Bowl events on Friday night as he performed in front of thousands at Club Nomadic, according to Click2Houston.

In addition to the performance, Friday night’s event also featured red carpet appearances by athletes and celebrities such as Terry Bradshaw, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Outside of Houston, football fans across the country prepared to host watch parties, as bars and restaurants braced for an influx of customers.

In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed signed an executive order extending the hours for alcohol sales from Sunday night through 2:30 a.m. Monday.

“It’s time to rise up, Atlanta,” Reed said, evoking the team’s motto.

He also encouraged those looking to take advantage of the extension to party responsibly and not drink and drive.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took a similar approach, as he rooted on the Patriots and encouraged fans to “act responsibly.”

“We’re going to have a zero tolerance policy,” he said. “There’s no public drinking, and no destruction of property.”

Police Commissioner William B. Evans joined Walsh at the news conference in City Hall and said officials had not asked bars to close early, but hoped to avoid the violence and vandalism that took place at past Super Bowl celebrations.

“We want it to be a great day and a great victory,” he said. “It’s just a matter of keeping people safe.”


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