Tomorrow night, Boston’s storied Fenway Park will host Game 6 of this year’s World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. While the attention of fans will be directed towards the action on the field, a team of various stadium operations personnel from around Major League Baseball will be on hand to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance. One member of this behind the scenes security team that will be present at Fenway for Game 6 and possibly Game 7, if the series goes that far, is Mario Coutinho, vice president of stadium operations and security for Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
According to Coutinho, MLB has a program that uses stadium personnel from around the league for big events like the World Series to help provide “another set of eyes and ears” during the game.
“We work closely with Fenway Park, in this case, their security people and directives and the agencies there that are working to provide a comprehensive security plan,” Coutinho explained. “At the end of the day, whether it is in Toronto, New York or Colorado, we all work with the same principles, we all manage crowds and we try to bring that expertise down to the venue to make sure that it operates free of any hiccups.”
Being the security manager of a large stadium himself, Coutinho said that he always has to be on guard against the unknown. Although issues related to the consumption of alcohol are the most common problem he encounters, Coutinho added that a terrorist attack is a very real threat, which is why security managers across the world of sports have to craft a risk mitigation plan that addresses all of these various threats.
“When we start thinking of managing a building – whether it is here in Canada or in the Unites States – we do look at incidents throughout the country and internationally and say, ‘what if?’ I think from that perspective, those are the questions that we ask and you might say, ‘what keeps you up at night’ and those are the same elements that we look at,” he said. “It’s always trying to put a plan in place or having resources where we can say, ‘what if, how would I handle it and where would I get that information?’”
Crowd control and quelling potential riots that may flare after a game or series is another big issue that stadium security managers have had to deal with in recent years. In June 2011, rioting broke out in downtown Vancouver after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins. At least 140 people were reportedly injured and more than 100 people were arrested by police.
This threat has not gone overlooked for this year’s World Series. In Boston, restaurants and bars near Fenway Park have been asked to close down after the fifth inning and also to not host any events outside their businesses, which could potentially draw more people to the area.
“These measures are to help control the people who just gather in the area of the venue and may not be part of the actual game itself, but are just there to party as a result,” said Coutinho. “I think anytime you have a large group of people in a small area that risk is there, but I must say that the key for diffusing that is having a pretty thorough plan that’s communicated well with the local police agencies and they have an opportunity to adjust the plan. In some cases, our responsibility is the building itself and outside, but you still need to coordinate with the agencies in terms of what that impact is to your businesses and surrounding area.”
The bombing of the Boston Marathon in April has had a significant impact as it relates to the way stadiums and other venues handle the screening of bags. In May, the National Football League’s Committee on Stadium Security adopted a policy that restricts the size and type of bags that can be brought into stadiums.