Success Story: The Key to the Bengals’ Security

Tracking technology pays off at Paul Brown Stadium


Before 2009, many employees at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, were issued master keys that they took home with them after work. It was a risky practice considering if a master key was lost, locks on doors would have to be changed throughout the stadium.

To keep track of keys at the time, the stadium’s security department used a handwritten system that lacked control and accountability. It might be hours or days before security would know that an assigned key had not been returned in a timely manner.

“We were spending a lot of time documenting keys to restrooms or telecommunications closets,” says Aaron K. Jones, the stadium’s Security Manager. “Stadium management also recognized that the practice of taking master keys off the premises was not wise, and it had to stop.”

Jones chose to deploy a KeyWatcher key control and management system from Morse Watchmans (www.securityinfowatch.com/10214428) to tighten the facility’s control on keys. “Our stadium security staff thinks this is one of the best things we have ever done to improve our operations,” Jones says.

A 96-key-capacity KeyWatcher cabinet, located in the stadium’s main 24/7 security office holds the facility’s master keys, which can open any door in the stadium, and several levels of “sub-masters” that can open a specific area or type of door, such as doors in the food service areas or doors to the administrative offices.

Now, all master keys are checked into the system at the end of the work day and are kept secure until they are needed the next day. The system ensures that only people with assigned access can retrieve keys, which are attached to smart key rings that work with the system.

Access to a key in the system is granted based on a biometric scan of an employee’s thumb combined with a four-digit access code. Because many of people who need keys are not stadium employees, such as contractors, for example, it made sense to use biometric identification rather than to require scanning of an employee’s card used with the SimplexGrinnell access control system at the stadium. Stadium employees advise security in advance of any visitor or contractor, providing information on who is coming and when, and the scope of the work they and in what areas they need access. “I can determine what keys they need and set them up in advance, or we can do it on their arrival,” Jones says.

Specialized KeyPro III software is used to manage the system, connected to the stadium’s main server on the expectation that someone might someday need access from another on-site location or from multiple workstations.

Every morning, Jones views the transactions, including who has accessed the key cabinet, what keys they have used and whether keys have been returned as expected. The system generates thorough reports about the system status, and a “live key report” shows which keys are currently in and out of the box. “Very seldom do I find a key has not been returned in a timely manner,” Jones says.