It's no secret that a mass gathering for an organized event presents a wide range of threats, including terrorist attacks.
Think about the last time you attended a sporting event or concert or went to another public place. It would almost seem out-of-the-ordinary not to be patted down at the entry turnstiles or have bags checked. Even fan giveaways are subject to scrutiny before distribution, so they don't wind up being used as a projectile or a weapon.
Security in public venues and sports stadiums poses a number of challenges such as traffic control; multiple entrances and exits; and lighting conditions in parking lots. Sports stadiums and public venues seem to be the bright spot in otherwise lackluster new construction. Since 2000, 28 new major league stadiums have been built costing over $9 billion dollars.
Opportunities for systems integrators are vast and it is up to them to act as a partner in showing security directors in this market just what robust converged solutions are available.
"You're going to see technology play a bigger role in stadium security over the next decade and as it does, here is where integrated security systems become more important," explained Dr. Lou Marciani, director, National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Miss. "Stadiums need a good integration partner to assist in the enhancement of technology as it affects the processes of the security of the stadium," he continued.
A demographic glance
There are nearly 1,800 stadiums in the country, ranging from capacities of 2,000 to 250,000. Over 45 percent of college and university football venues seat between 30,000 and 50,000 and there are 20 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) stadiums holding over 90,000 spectators.
Dollars are clearly being spent in this market as the past two years combined vouched for a collective $9 billion estimate spent alone in construction for sports stadiums and arenas in both major leagues, collegiate and minor leagues, according to a SportsBusiness Journal study.
According to the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety & Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi, 83.9 percent of grant funding comes from outside the state of Mississippi, with 48.1 percent of funding coming from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A keynote address presented by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano at this year's first National Sports Safety & Security Conference and Exhibition looked at the need to expand public and private partnerships between DHS, law enforcement and stadium and supporting operators but also looked at the role that fans and everyday citizens play in security, not just in sporting events but in public venues as well.
"One other area of partnership that we are expanding is one not just with teams or security officials but with the fans," Napolitano stated. "That is making sure that everyone understands that security is a shared responsibility," she continued.
In an effort to get fans involved in the security, DHS launched the "See Something, Say Something" campaign, started by the New York city Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), for fans at stadiums. DHS is working to combine the campaign with their Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) system, created initially for law enforcement to share info about incidents that may indicate future terrorist planning or other criminal activity.
NCS4, established as a national center to research, identify and target solutions for sports stadiums and arenas, allows manufacturers and technology developers to bring their solutions to the NCS4 campus for evaluation. With the NCS4 National Sport Security Lab, established earlier this year, solution makers submit products relevant in the sports stadium environment to be tested.