The NFL's Protection Prototype

Things have changed dramatically since 1946 when the Cleveland Browns first planted their roots on the shores of Lake Erie at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The city of Cleveland lost the original team in 1995, when the Browns relocated to Baltimore . Four years later in 1999, the National Football League granted the city a new franchise, which came with a new facility – Cleveland Browns Stadium. It signified the dawn of a new beginning for the city and its football team.

Cleveland Browns Stadium is a tremendous facility occupying approximately 1.64 million square-feet with a seating capacity of 73,200. Amenities include 12 ticket windows, 41 restrooms and more than 100 concession stands, as well as back operations with locker rooms, lounges, offices and an infrastructure to support a small city. The technology employed to keep the stadium running smoothly and efficiently is both extensive and innovative on many fronts – including a heated playing field to extend the growing season of the Kentucky bluegrass and help keep the field from freezing late in the season when snow and wind sends temperatures plunging.

Keeping tabs on every movement within the massive structure is a Panasonic security system under the management of Cleveland Browns Stadium security manager Ross Benjamin. “Our security command center was installed during the latter phase of construction and included a sufficient number of cameras with an analog recording system,” Benjamin says. “But as time passed, we continually encountered situations that required video surveillance on a 24/7 basis for both game days and non-game days. This required us to look at ways we could increase our coverage with more advanced features and capabilities.

“This process started almost immediately after the first year of operations in the new facility,” Benjamin continues. “We identified recurring problems and the issues related with a continual stream of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It became apparent very early that we needed more cameras to give us eyes where we couldn't necessarily put people. It also helped us to clearly identify our primary security objectives: protect our fans, players and employees; reduce liability; help deter criminal activity; and apprehend and prosecute offenders.”

Before a new video surveillance system could be specified, Benjamin and his team needed to perform an extensive internal audit of their security needs based on their actual experiences in the facility. They also called upon the services of Panasonic Authorized Dealer Integration Logistics LLC, to help identify camera locations and coverage assignments. “Recorded evidence needs to be indisputable for prosecution, so we wanted to deploy a system that could capture and record as much information as possible,” Benjamin says.

Benjamin and his team paid close attention to entry and egress routes for both pedestrians and vehicles covering areas within and outside the massive structure and surrounding grounds. Particular attention was focused on the four main gates, where fans enter and exit events at the stadium. “The gates are the areas where we typically experience the most instances of people trying to illegally enter the facility on game days and off days,” Benjamin says. “This is really more of an issue on off days, when we do not have personnel manning the gate areas and security personnel may not be in the immediate area where an intrusion is taking place.”

A combination of Panasonic dome systems and fixed cameras are strategically positioned around the exterior of Cleveland Browns Stadium to provide comprehensive coverage of the facility's exterior. “We can actually identify and track individuals outside of the stadium and dispatch guards and police as soon as we believe activity is about to take place,” Benjamin says. “This allows us to operate efficiently and deploy personnel when and where they are most needed.

“We have 360-degree coverage around the exterior of the stadium covering virtually all 31 acres of the property,” he continues. “At times, we partner with the Science Center adjacent to our facility and direct some exterior cameras on their facility and grounds to provide added surveillance. If there is some type of irregular activity taking place, we can assist in monitoring the action and assist with personnel dispatch. It is a very effective collaboration.”

The city's Science Center is quite a distance – at least a full city block – from the Browns' facility. “We can zoom in with the Panasonic dome cameras and make identifications,” Benjamin says. “We can actually make IDs on individuals sitting on buses right through the vehicles' windows. We can even identify license plate numbers from this distance.”

Security and operations personnel also take advantage of the widespread video surveillance coverage to manage both pedestrian and vehicular traffic outside the stadium. “When a game is over, the video system provides us with the ability to monitor how and where people are exiting the area,” Benjamin says. “It gives us a good idea of what we are dealing with in terms of how many people are on foot, how many cars are in our parking lots, and which roads they are heading for, so traffic patterns can be adjusted. The police department periodically sends a traffic control officer to our facility to monitor the traffic.”

Says John Smolinski, president of Integration Logistics LLC: “The really big upgrade to the video surveillance system happened this past year when we upgraded the video control system to a Panasonic Matrix System 650 with WJ-HD316 DVRs”

The Matrix System offers simple, flexible architecture to support up to 256 cameras and 32 monitors, and can accommodate up to 16 WJ-HD300A Series DVRs which can be networked for remote surveillance on a personal computer. The system includes GUI control; multiple point control employing up to 16 WV-CU650 System Controllers; PTZ control via coaxial or multiplexed cable, or via RS485 protocol; cable runs up to 3,000 feet without signal loss; simple set-up and board access; 1,024 alarm inputs and outputs with storage for up to 1,000 alarms; and up to 60 users with level and priority settings.

All of the action captured from the 70-plus cameras installed at Cleveland Browns Stadium is recorded to the DVRs. The units provide high density recording (60ips / 120ips@CIF) with full rate live multi-screen resolution (60 to 960 ips) and a base disk capacity of 250GB that's expandable to 7.5 Terabytes per unit. The units can also be cascaded to expand system capacity. The management software, system controllers and DVRs create a hybrid analog and digital solution.

At the same time the Panasonic control and recording system upgrade was taking place to the head-end in the stadium's security command center, Benjamin and his team designed a game-day control center that overlooks the stadium bowl. The new game-day control center provides security personnel with a completely different approach to operations. Located on the opposite side of the stadium, the control center features Panasonic WV-CU650 controllers tied into the system at the head-end to provide access and control of every camera in the facility. Panasonic LCD displays are mounted around the control room, providing operators with the ability to simultaneously focus on specific sections of the facility while maintaining a visual surveillance overview.

The stadium's cavernous seating area is completely covered by weatherproof dome cameras featuring Panasonic's Super Dynamic III (SDIII) imaging technology, which delivers a wide dynamic range. The dome cameras also feature Auto Back Focus, which adjusts focus when switching from color to black-and-white operation and back again; Auto Image Stabilizer for camera deployment in areas that may be prone to wind and other sources of vibration; Scene Change Detection that sends an alarm when the camera's lens is obstructed or the camera angle has been changed without authorization; Auto Tracking to follow an individual's movements within the camera's field of view; 540 lines of resolution (color); 30x optical zoom (plus 10x electronic, 300x total); and extreme low light sensitivity in color (0.5 lux) and BW (0.06 lux).

“We can see virtually every seat number in the house with them,” Benjamin says of the domes. The day/night feature also provides us with imaging capabilities after dark. The cameras automatically switch from color to black-and-white mode once light hits a certain level. This allows us to maintain color surveillance operations during daylight hours, while allowing us to view images across the darker recesses of the property without the need for external enhancements.”

During games, each of the four dome cameras are recorded on a dedicated DVR, with the rest of the cameras multiplexed onto the remaining six DVRs. “It all comes together on game day, when representatives from every aspect of stadium operations are in the game day control center,” says Carl Meyer, vice president of security and operations at the stadium. “They work in unison to get all the people into the stadium safely and efficiently by managing traffic at the gates, closely monitoring the crowd for disruptive activities, and by coordinating and supporting personnel deployed throughout the facility. We assemble all these different people in this one room, and it's amazing to watch them interact. We have multiple controllers and monitoring stations so different personnel can monitor different activities independently.”

“By observing first-hand the needs of the operations team and seeing the pressure they are under during a game, we identified a camera position feature to allow the officers to quickly aim a camera to any section in the stadium,” says Ken Schafenberg, CEO of Integration Logistics.

Adds Benjamin: “The cameras' preset memory capabilities allow us to program pan/tilt/zoom sequences based on the actual seating layout of the stadium. So if we receive a call that there's a disturbance in section 332, we simply enter ‘332' into the system controllers from the game day control center and the designated dome camera automatically zooms onto the section. The preset shot feature makes it almost instantaneous for our personnel to assess the situation.”

Stadium security officials are also conscious of liability issues once an offender is in custody. “We have our own lock-up in the command center, where we hold suspects until the police arrive,” Benjamin says. “To get there, they need to be escorted through the back areas of the stadium which raises several different security issues including the possibility of a suspect breaking free from security personnel or making false allegations regarding their treatment while detained. As a result, we added more cameras on the interior service levels.”

On non-game days when the stadium is relatively quiet, the system is set to automatically tour every camera in the stadium. “We can program the system to conduct different viewing operations including automated tour sequences or group sequences which we can activate manually or electronically,” Benjamin says. “And there are multiple ways to define and create event sequences which provide us with a great deal of flexibility, while maintaining a close eye on traditional hot spots for activity such as the main gates and ticket windows.”

In addition to the control and monitoring capabilities provided in the main security command center and game day control center, all key management personnel have the ability to monitor any camera in the system remotely from their offices or anyplace they have Internet access. This remote functionality was accomplished by networking the DVRs into the stadium's Local Area Network (LAN). Using a standard Web browser and VPN connection, authorized personnel can gain access to live camera feeds and recorded data.

“If we have a trespasser, or an incident takes place after hours, I can pull up live or recorded video from home and burn it to a CD so I have all the documentation I need when I arrive at the stadium,” Benjamin says.

Connecting all the cameras, DVRs, control rooms and network infrastructure is quite a remarkable feat in a facility with a footprint that covers over 31 acres. “The security system employs a lot of proprietary wiring that we've installed, but there's also a huge fiber infrastructure that was installed during its initial construction,” Smolinski says. ‘We've been taking advantage of the facility's fiber backbone since day one of the system expansion.”

Feeds from the Panasonic video surveillance cameras situated throughout and around the stadium are grouped to a series of equipment “closets.” In addition to being the collection hub where camera feeds and control signals are transmitted bi-directionally over multimode fiber transceivers back to the security command center, they are the source for power distribution to the cameras.

“Electronic security was not really a priority when I came to the NFL in the 1990s, but the owner of the Browns was extremely security conscious and understood the value it brings to an operation,” Meyer says. “Today, every NFL team has a security department. After [the Sept. 11 attacks], everything changed. The NFL inspected every pro stadium to ensure there were adequate measures in place. After they reviewed us and looked at the way we were doing things, our facility became the model for how an NFL facility should be running its security operations.”