Officials Plan Crowd Control, Surveillance for U. of Northern Iowa Homecoming Celebration

Water-filled perimeter barriers, surveillance cameras will be in use as part of $50,000 spent on security to control crowds


City officials are spending more than $50,000 on security measures in hopes of controlling large crowds during the University of Northern Iowa's homecoming celebration this weekend.

Part of a main street near the campus will be closed and a 125-foot water-filled barrier will be placed there. City officials also are putting surveillance cameras in the area.

The barrier, which will be in place during a typically busy business weekend, has some students and area business owners upset.

Joe Turner, a former City Council member, owns the Blue Moon Cafe, Suds, Suds Circle Pizza and Sharky's Fun House.

"The bar businesses will be OK, that's not the issue,'' Turner said. ``The food businesses, it's going to hurt. It's overkill and it's ridiculous.''

Business owners also were upset they had no input on the issue. Owners learned of the city's plans in a letter followed by a meeting with city officials last week.

"They never asked us anything, they just went ahead and did it,'' Turner said.

Dan Crystal, 22, a senior sociology major at UNI, said the $50,000 price tag for the precautions is extreme. That's because he doesn't think there will be any major problems for authorities.

"You're going to have an occasional problem, but I don't think for the most part it's going to be a major concern,'' said Crystal, who was working at the campus bookstore late Tuesday.

The barricade is necessary to get emergency vehicles through, if needed, said Police Chief Rick Ahlstrom. In past years, crowds of 5,000 people have gathered after the homecoming football game.

One compromise may be for the city to pay employees double time to remove the barricade Sunday morning rather than Monday afternoon.

During UNI's homecoming in 1996, rioters broke windows and overturned cars near the campus.

The precautions also come in the wake of an April 18 riot at an Iowa State University student festival called VEISHA.