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SBJ/April 22-28, 2013/Events and AttractionsPrint All
Mary Wittenberg, CEO of New York Road Runners, stared at her phone in disbelief, having left the finish line of the Boston Marathon to hop a train back to New York an hour earlier. The screen had just two sentences on it.
“Our greatest nightmare has happened. Two explosions at the finish line.”
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
The 9/11 attacks a dozen years earlier led to an unprecedented overhaul of security at sports venues across the country. Over time, changes ranged from disallowing bags at Yankee Stadium to wanding fans at NFL games.
Last week’s attacks sparked similar changes, from emergency security meetings in Long Beach ahead of the IndyCar Grand Prix, to the Nashville Predators bringing in bomb-sniffing dogs, to even Wittenberg’s New York Road Runners making participants at Sunday’s City Parks Foundation Run store extra clothing in clear, plastic bags instead of the usual backpacks and duffel bags.
Security experts and sports executives say that’s only the beginning.
In the coming years, they expect to see security bolstered not only at sports facilities but also at ancillary events like concerts, fan festivals and endurance competitions that make for “soft,” or easily accessible, targets. Teams will spend more on security personnel; sponsors and organizers will see insurance premiums rise; counterterrorism intelligence and analysis around large and small events alike will become more of a priority; spectators will be called on to assist with surveillance; and law enforcement officials and private security operators will have to recalibrate their approach to events.
“This incident in Boston is a reminder, a wake-up call,” said John Power, director of security at International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona International Speedway and 11 other racetracks. “It lets us know that just because some time has passed, we’re still vulnerable and the threats are still there. It’s going to get us all thinking and looking at the security measures enacted after 9/11 back at the forefront of our minds.”
Security officials across teams, leagues and facilities said the Boston attack won’t cause major changes to their security measures. They all have the advantage of securing well-defined, enclosed venues that can be protected with measures ranging from spectator wanding, which all NFL teams adopted last year, to establishing 100-foot perimeters to prevent explosive devices from being driven into the area.
But the Boston attack underscored that security is no longer just about protecting the venue.
“The problem with open-air events is that they are like a balloon — you squeeze it and you just displace the threat to somewhere else,” said Brian Finch, partner in the Government Law and Strategy Group at Dickstein Shapiro.
Officials now need to consider how they and local authorities protect and secure potential targets outside their venues. Ancillary events ranging from free concerts to fan festivals have multiplied over the last decade as sports organizations and sponsors have tried to reach more fans. Many of those events don’t have the same level of security procedures and processes as the games they’re affiliated with, such as the NCAA Final Four or the Super Bowl.
“The live site, the public area, is going to be under greater scrutiny because we’re providing an opportunity there for people to do bad things,” said Dan Donovan, a security consultant at Guideposts Solutions who worked on security plans for the Athens and Beijing Olympics. “Whether it’s the Final Four or the Olympics or Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, it’s creating an opportunity. Each time [attacks like Boston happen] these things get assessed, and in that assessment process they’re going to say, ‘Hey, you can have a live site, but we’re going to require screening and random bag checks.’ That’s going to be up to the local authorities.”
Heightened security was in place at sporting events last week, including police officers at the Barclays Center for a Brooklyn Nets game and wanding of fans at a Boston Bruins game.
Photos by:GETTY IMAGES
Additional security personnel remain the best option for improving security, but they come at a cost. Private security guards demand $15 to $20 an hour and law enforcement officials get $30 to $75 an hour. There’s also new
Some of those costs will be borne by leagues and teams, but the bulk will fall on the government. Ray Mey, who worked for the FBI for 23 years and served as the agency’s counterterrorism liaison for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, expects cities to begin asking whether they should host events and many to begin looking to the federal government to cover security costs.
“It’s not going to be the city [that bears the cost],” said Mey, a senior program manager of The Soufan Group, which is a security consultancy on Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Olympics. “In most cases, a senator or congressman from a particular state will say an event is coming like the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer, and they will try to leverage political capital to bring resources to the state. It gets awfully expensive.”
Many teams have anticipated the rise in security costs over the last decade and tried to control those increases through smart stadium designs. Donovan, who is consulting with the San Francisco 49ers on their new stadium in Santa Clara, said the building was designed so that the team can add security measures at a minimal cost.
“New stadium owners and architects are making sure that what they design today is ready for the problems and larger events they’ll have tomorrow,” Donovan said, adding that can range from installing camera systems to being prepared to have the 300-foot perimeter that the NFL requires to host the Super Bowl.
Promoters also worry about what the Boston bombing will do to the cost of insurance premiums for ancillary events. Vince Thompson, CEO of Melt, an Atlanta-based sports and event marketing agency, said there’s only a small group of insurance companies that even offer the kind of liability and terrorism insurance he needs to run concerts and fan fests in conjunction with sporting events.
“Ever since 9/11, the whole landscape for security measures has dramatically shifted,” Thompson said. “You’re talking about only a very select group of commercial underwriters out there, and you’re going to face excessive scrutiny by the underwriters as they assess risk. All of that impacts the premium, and the premium impacts the price of a ticket.”
Any type of event that will attract a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 or more can require at least $10 million in insurance coverage. Melt in the past has produced concerts, including some for its client, Coca-Cola, that have attracted crowds of 50,000-plus. Those events require liability insurance with an umbrella policy that includes attacks and acts of terrorism, and premiums for that kind of insurance can annually run well into the five figures, Thompson said.
“The footprint of a sporting event has expanded far beyond the stadium,” he said. “It’s now about a 2.5 multiple. If you’ve got 80,000 people attending a Final Four, you’ve got another 150,000 to 200,000 fans congregating in that area. At the Final Four, you’ve got to take into account the Big Dance, Bracket Town. And basically you’re talking about metal detectors, so it’s very rudimentary security.
“You almost need to put something like airport security against this. But at the same time, you have to make sure you don’t inconvenience the fans to the point where they don’t show up.”
Thompson wasn’t the only one to raise the idea of bringing airport security measures to sports events. But more than the security measures, event organizers and security officials said they would like to see sports push fans to be as vigilant at events as they are when they fly.
Jim Birrell, managing partner of Medalist Sports, which oversees operations for cycling events, said next month’s Amgen Tour of California will employ a “See Something, Say Something” campaign with banners and T-shirts. Others raised the idea of having public-service announcements similar to the ones made at airports, reminding people to report abandoned bags and suspicious behavior.
Some teams are already taking steps to do that. The San Francisco Giants have a texting system that allows fans to anonymously report unusual activities at AT&T Park.
“Everyone who goes to an event has some responsibility,” said Doug Arnot, London 2012’s director of Games operations. “I suspect we’ll see more talk about what you can bring to an event. You will see an intense public awareness, an encouragement of public participation and cooperation.”
But it will take more than just increased spectator vigilance to prevent another attack like the one in Boston. To do that, security experts said that the government, both federal and local, will need to improve counterintelligence and security analysis of future sports events.
Mey said that the fusion centers, which gather counterintelligence information and act as a liaison between local and national public safety groups, should begin looking at local sports events and evaluating their preparedness. In the case of the Boston Marathon, they could have determined whether the 26-mile route could be rerouted to avoid potential vulnerable areas, they could have reviewed all the participants to see whether anyone had animosity toward the United States, and they could have noted that it was Patriots’ Day, Tax Day and close to the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“They could have said, ‘This cumulative threat picture forces us to believe this event is elevated to a heightened level of threat and as a result we recommend you do X, Y and Z,’” Mey said.
Bill Rathburn, former chief of police in Dallas and deputy chief of police in Los Angeles, who served as the director of security for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said he expects local law enforcement to shift their approach at large-scale events, as well. In the case of many large sporting events, law enforcement officials are more focused on traffic and public safety than surveillance. He expects every police chief to make a more deliberate assessment of threats during future sports events and encourage their police force to be vigilant in watching for potential “bad guys” around the event.
“With events that run annually or periodically, there’s an attitude of everything-is-going-as-usual,” Rathburn said. “That will change.”
Both Mey and Rathburn raised the possibility that the federal government might revisit the way it classifies sporting events for potential attacks. Following 9/11, Washington began declaring top sporting events like the Super Bowl and Olympics “National Security Special Events.” Below that level, there are four levels of Special Event Assessment Rating, ranging from Level 1, which is a high threat level that demands significant federal support, to Level 4, which is a minimal threat level and requires no federal support.
Major marathons such as Boston have been typically designated a Level 2 event, although sources within the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI say that level of protection could change in the future, and Mey and Rathburn argued that it should.
“More events will get risen to that [National Security Special Event] level, but the problem is where do you draw the line?” Mey said. “I can guarantee you that before this event happened the FBI’s mantra is that there are no known terrorist threats to the event. How do you sell that?”
There’s already evidence that federal agencies are taking more of an interest in sports events. The Competitor Group, which operates the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, for the first time is working with the FBI ahead of its race this weekend in Nashville. The marathon is the first big one in the U.S. since Boston, and in addition to working with the FBI, it is installing cameras at the finish line.
But Competitor Group CEO Scott Dickey wants everyone to know that Boston wasn’t an epiphany. Security has always been an issue for sports events, and it always will be.
“We live in a post-9/11 world, not a post-Patriots’ Day world,” he said. “This is not a new issue.”
David Broughton, Fred Dreier, Eric Fisher, Daniel Kaplan, Don Muret, John Ourand and Michael Smith contributed to this story.
Numerous executives within the sports industry were on-site when tragedy struck the Boston Marathon. SBJ/SBD gathered some of their personal stories from those horrible moments. For more from these accounts and others, see www.sportsbusinessjournal.com.
Senior Vice President, Retail Licensing
All the runners were in this state of confusion. We were all looking around, wondering what in the world had happened, why have we stopped. Within a minute or two, word began to circulate that there had been explosions at the finish line. One person said a boiler in one of the hotels had blown up. We didn’t know. We were literally close enough to see the finish line, way down the street and around the corner. That’s when this annoyance and confusion and anger turned into a unique combination of panic and camaraderie. People who had been agitated went for their cell phones, those that had them. I did not have my phone, so another runner offered to use his phone.
My wife and I had pre-arranged a spot down the course from the finish line to meet, so I took some comfort that she wouldn’t have been at the finish line. Still, I was absolutely panicked because I couldn’t get in touch with her.
The police kept us there, I don’t know, 30 to 45 minutes. They just said to stay where we were. There was this wonderful sense of camaraderie because it was 48 degrees, you go from sweating to shivering and cold, and people start bringing garbage bags to allow runners to put the bag over them for insulation. People brought water and food. As you looked around, people were having panic attacks and getting ill. At one point, this solid line of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars went by us going 50-60 mph down a city street. I thought at one point that I had seen 150 ambulances. Everybody knew it was a really serious problem. Runners were trying to console each other.
After being held in that area for 45 minutes or so, police said the race is over, you’re done, go around to the finish line down an alternate street. We all cooperatively headed that way to get to the busses, where all of our gear was. The first thing I did was get out my phone and text my wife. “Are you there,” I wrote. She immediately texted back, “Yes.” It was a pretty incredible moment. We met at a spot in the family meeting area and walked back to the hotel. I was so cold. Some of the volunteers came with thermal blankets. As I checked my phone, I had 117 emails and 70 text messages. Just about everyone I know was checking on me. That was pretty overwhelming.
This was my first Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, I was stopped 3/10 of a mile short, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty insignificant. The race for 25.9 miles exceeded every expectation. I’ve run marathons and half marathons, and this was the pinnacle. One thing I keep thinking about is the three or four minutes I stopped, around the 10-mile mark, and took a few pictures with some friends who were cheering me on. If not for that three or four minutes I stopped, I would have been right in the middle of all the chaos at the finish line. I’ve played that over in my mind about 2,000 times.
New York Road Runners
I had spent the day watching from a variety of places, and I was at the finish line for about an hour to watch (1984 Olympic Marathon champion) Joan Benoit finish. I was enjoying the sunshine and watching these runners. Coming off our marathon, it was so good to be back in that environment, to have that feeling of shared camaraderie. I remember looking out at the finish line and thinking, “Wow, this is a lot of spectators.” I was with Josh Rowe from New Balance and a few of our staff, we were across the street from where the second bomb went off.
So after Joan finished in 2:52, which was just 30 minutes from her run 30 years ago, and she’s 52, we had some great photos at the finish line. As I often do with Boston, I jumped on the 1:15 p.m. train back to New York because I had to leave for London. About an hour into the train ride I get this text from Josh saying, “Our greatest nightmare has happened. Two explosions at the finish line.” At the same moment I started getting texts from friends in New York asking if I was OK. It was a shock. We spent the rest of the train ride checking in on a lot of people.
We got off the train in New York and WNBC was there, and after the interview we went to the office and just started checking in on people to make sure they were OK. We had 22 employees at the event. Then we checked with (Boston Athletic Association) folks. Then it’s members of the club who were running in Boston. Boston is such a goal and an aspiration for so many runners. All the way I was trying to just process everything. I spent the rest of the night getting our statement out — I didn’t want to talk to a lot of media, I just wanted to share our thoughts and prayers with Boston.
I got home and got big hugs from the family, and just spent time with them. The kids absorb this stuff, they are old enough to know what went on. I wanted to make sure they were OK. Then I just took it in, it was a restless night.
Senior Vice President, Marketing
The Competitor Group
Revman, shown here in a Portland race, was across the street from the first blast.
We were departing the stands when the bomb exploded. It sounded like the musket rifle they shoot in the air to reenact Patriots’ Day. It’s so noisy at the finish line, so it wasn’t as loud to me, so I didn’t know something was wrong until I saw people running toward the explosion. The first responders started running through the crowd like fullbacks. It was impressive.
I personally never felt like I was in danger, but I had the responsibility with my daughter and her friend to get her home. We walked five miles from the Back Bay to Cambridge because the subway was closed.
I’ve had this hangover from the whole thing. I’m very bothered. I’m very much in a cloud these days, like I missed my exit on the freeway because I was daydreaming. It’s surreal to see the marathon in this way. Combining the Boston Marathon with the term “bombing” doesn’t correlate with me right now.
USA Today Sports Media Group
Beusse (left) with friend Ed Lynch
Sports is at its best at marathons, I think. Most
Beusse provided a photo before the explosions (above) and after, with smoke visible in the distance (below).
Runners are a fiercely committed community. I have no doubt the Boston Marathon will be no less epic next year than in any of its 117 years. People will enter and run for the causes they care most about. Hopefully the weather will, again, be as beautiful as ours was Monday. But next year, hopefully the ending will be about personal bests and accomplishments rather than about human tragedies.
Vice President of Sponsorship Sales
MLB Advanced Media
I’m from Boston originally and this was my fourth marathon. I finished about 20 minutes prior to everything. I was one street over at Copley — almost even with where the bomb was — when everything happened. At first I was like, “Holy shit. What was that?” Then it was like the running of the bulls. People were running everywhere. I called my wife and said something had happened and made sure she knew I was fine before cell service went out. I didn’t know what had happened, so I just kept walking and walked three or four miles. It was weird. You couldn’t see smoke or anything when the bomb went off. The ground just shook and it was loud. The guys at Fenway told me to come over there, but I said, “I’m not going over there. I’m getting the hell out of Boston.”
Being from the area, it’s one of those things that hits close to home. It could have easily been me or some of my loved ones. I’ll never forget what it sounded like. I don’t know what a sophisticated bomb sounds like but that was loud. The image of people running down the street in complete chaos will be a lasting image. Next year’s marathon will be extra special. I won’t miss it for the world.
Corporate Partnerships Account Manager
Feldhausen and his sister, Trisha, who also ran the race, finished before the bombs exploded.
I was very impressed with how the extremely unfortunate situation was handled. Information was available via social media very quickly. Runners were very cooperative and understanding. Having spent some time in the med tent after my race I was impressed by how they had everything so well organized. Based off of this, I am not surprised with how quickly they responded to the needs of those affected by the explosions just before the finish line. There were many police and medical personal that helped out quickly in large part because of their proximity to the incident. I am proud of the way that the running community has come together — both at the initial time of need and over the past 24 hours.
Executive Sales Director
New England Patriots
Oates (second from right) with his Team Golf Fights Cancer crew, which includes the PGA Tour’s Tim Hawes (fourth from left), MLBAM’s Jim McCloud (third from right) and, not pictured, Shaina “Shay” Aviles of the PGA Tour.
I think the situation, tragic as it is, was handled incredibly well. It was both amazing and chilling to see
Brian Oates and family along the race route.
Turning onto Boylston Street as a marathoner is one of the most exhilarating feelings that regular Joe athletes can experience. I am sad, and it’s a shame that experience was denied to so many this year and changed forevermore for everyone else. That said, I am not going to let “them” win. I am going to focus on the countless acts of inspiration, generosity and courage that characterize the marathon and the many that are involved running, fundraising, organizing and supporting the event, and not the cowardice and hate of terrorists.
— Compiled by Theresa Manahan, Michael Smith, Fred Dreier and Tripp Mickle