SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Don’t turn your back on stadium security till final whistle blows

Attending a Division I football game recently, I noticed that by the start of the fourth quarter security personnel no longer staffed all gates entering the stadium. This has been considered standard practice at sporting events for many years.

Event managers have concentrated on keeping out fans who have not purchased tickets until the event is almost completed. As events progress into later stages, the benefit of attending continues to decrease proportionately with the amount of time remaining. If fans arrive in the fourth quarter of a football game, or late in the second half of a basketball game, they may not have an opportunity to watch enough of the event to justify attending.

Unfortunately, facility managers and sport organizations now have the added burden of confronting the growing problem of public violence. The shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, two day-trading offices in Atlanta, the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and Wedgewood Baptist Church in Texas remind us that there are some dangerous people in society looking for an avenue to direct their aggression in public locations. The recent wave of public violence is especially dangerous, since perpetrators have shown indifference regarding their own safety.

As incidents of public aggression remain prevalent in the media, criminals may begin looking for opportunities to increase media exposure. This mentality may cause a public sports facility to be the target of a violent act. All the pieces are in place for a major disaster.

Public sports arenas, holding anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 people, would be a prime target for an attack under the current security strategy. The amount of publicity an attack would attract, not to mention the number of potential targets, makes an attack a real possibility. Major national and international events such as the Super Bowl or Olympic Games are no longer the only events at risk.

As facility managers and facility management educators, we have a responsibility to be proactive in our efforts to increase security and rewrite our risk management plans before a catastrophe occurs. This could be accomplished, at a minimum, by placing security personnel at all gates until the end of sporting events. This would secure the facility until fans are leaving the stadium. The staffing that would be needed is already present for approximately three-fourths of the event.

Admittedly, increased security may pose an additional financial burden on sport organizations. The added security needed to staff gates will cost more money without resulting in additional revenue. Sport organizations may need to raise ticket prices to offset the expense.

The benefit provided to fans is well worth the added investment. In addition to making your facility more secure for fans, another consideration is important: Do you want the first attack to happen at the facility you manage? As I sat with approximately 93,000 other fans on that Saturday, I wondered how safe I really was under the current system. How safe will you be next time you attend an event?

Jim Reese is an assistant professor in the sports administration and facility management program at Ohio University.

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