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Volume 24 No. 132

Events and Attractions

The Boston Athletic Association yesterday vowed that the Boston Marathon "will be held as scheduled next year," according to John Powers of the BOSTON GLOBE. BAA Exec Dir Tom Grilk in a statement said, "The Boston Marathon is a deeply held tradition -- an integral part of the fabric and history of our community." It was unclear whether the "thousands of entrants who were prevented from finishing the race would be offered a place in next year's race without having to qualify again." Grilk said, "We certainly will address those issues and all of the other issues that will come up with the utmost care. Today is not the day for that." Powers notes BAA organizers twice in the last three years have "given runners a deferral option." Following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland in '10, there were "mass flight cancellations during the days preceding the race." That led to several hundred int'l runners being "offered a place in the 2011 event based on their original seeding times." Due to a "scorching heat forecast for race day" last year, runners who "picked up their bib numbers were granted the option of competing this year instead, but only 427 of the 26,716 entrants did so." However, the BAA "never has had to deal with entry decisions in the wake of a race that was stopped hours after it began." Of the 23,326 official starters, 17,584 "had crossed the finish line on Boylston Street just before Copley Square when timing was stopped at 2:57 p.m." Runners who "picked up their personal effects Tuesday were given medals whether or not they'd completed the race" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17).

SECURITY STAYED AT HIGH LEVEL: In Boston, Estes, Cramer & Springer in a front-page piece note the city's "detailed security plan" for Monday's marathon shows the "same all-out mobilization of officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and explosives specialists as was in place for last year’s race, an indication that the intensity of security preparedness has remained at a high pitch." State and local authorities this year "took extensive measures to protect hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators -- including the deployment of air patrols, K-9 units, and more than 1,000 uniformed officers and soldiers along the 26-mile course and the finish line." In Boston alone, there were "824 officers and civilians scheduled to work on Marathon day." That is a 6% increase from '12. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said that dogs "swept the area for explosives twice before the first runners crossed the finish line." Other state and local agencies also "insisted they had even stronger measures in place this year than they had in past years." Former Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans said that it is "impossible to prevent a terrorist attack without changing what makes the Boston Marathon the Boston Marathon." Evans: "If you want a secure environment, you don’t have any spectators. And that’s not what Boston is about." Davis noted that some security measures "are simply impractical." He said, "We consider all options but the problem with metal detectors is that they are only good in areas that are controlled and you can’t control something 26 miles long." Estes, Cramer & Springer note the next "major running event on the Boston-area race calendar is the James Joyce Ramble, a 10K that will take place in Dedham on April 28." Even before the Boston Marathon bombings, Ramble organizers had "planned to have increased security at its postrace party, and now they are considering more security measures along the course" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17).

FOCUSING IN ON SAFETY: In Chicago, Hersh, Bowean & Heinzmann report Chicago Marathon Race Dir Carey Pinkowski believes it is "possible to provide security over such a vast footprint" as the race's 26.2-mile course. Pinkowski said, "I would like to say we could. We can use our best efforts and all the resources we have. Security has always been a main focus of what we do." He added that existing procedures for Chicago's race "have placed a heavy emphasis on security around the start ... and finish." Spectators "aren't allowed into the area around the finish line until a half-hour after the race starts." Pinkowski said that non-credentialed spectators are "not allowed in a secured area around the finish." He added that in the past, the "major areas of concern have been road safety along the course and managing the sheer size of the event -- this year's marathon quickly drew 45,000 entries." Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday pledged that the Bank of America Chicago Marathon "will go on as scheduled but said he wants to see more about what happened in Boston before deciding whether changes need to be made." Meanwhile, Hersh, Bowean & Heinzmann note the Chicago Marathon does "not have a designated security director." Pinkowski in the "contact with the Chicago police and other city agencies, while the race's operations director deals with contracted security" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/17).

Organizers of Sunday's Virgin London Marathon and police officers this week will "conduct a review of the security arrangements that will be put in place" for the race, with "effective communications and a swift decision-making structure ... likely to be central to the discussions," according to Simon Hart of the London TELEGRAPH. The pre-race course inspection also is “likely to be scaled up, with extra sniffer dogs and manpower being deployed in the early hours of Sunday, while additional police officers could be drafted in to provide additional protection once the race gets under way.” Race organizers “can change the route of the course at a moment’s notice if threatened with a Boston-style attack.” Organizers yesterday indicated that they "had full confidence in the security operation.” Securing the marathon route used during the ’12 London Games was “easier because it was contained within an eight-mile circuit in the centre of the capital, while the start and finish areas ... were restricted to ticket-holders and protected by airport-style screening.” However, the London Marathon “follows a twisting but linear route from Blackheath to central London, snaking through swathes of south-east London before crossing the Thames and heading east to the Isle of Dogs and then returning to the centre of the capital.” The course offers “countless potential hiding places to conceal explosive devices” (London TELEGRAPH, 4/17). The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson reports race organizers “spent the day in meetings with the Metropolitan police as they reviewed and tightened security for the event, which will feature 37,500 runners.” London Marathon CEO Nick Bitel is “believed to have received offers of help and support from around the world.” U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that the government was "'absolutely confident’ that the event could be kept safe and secure” (GUARDIAN, 4/17).

HONORING BOSTON: USA TODAY’s Gary Mihoces reports runners in the London Marathon are “being asked to cross the finish line with their hands over their hearts.” Organizers are “encouraging runners to wear a black ribbon along with their race number” (USA TODAY, 4/17). Organizers said in a statement that there will be a “period of silence lasting 30 seconds” before the start of the race “to mark the ‘tragic events’ in Boston” (REUTERS, 4/16). Meanwhile, U.K. Athletics Chair Ed Warner said that there was “no indication that any British athletes would pull out as a result of the Boston bombs.” Ricky Simms, who reps Gold Medal-winning runner Mo Farah, confirmed that Farah would “definitely run” in the marathon and has “no plans to change his security arrangements or schedule.” The GUARDIAN’s Gibson & Riach note “none of the elite athletes who raced in Boston, all of whom were back in their hotel when the bombs exploded, is in the field in London.” But two-thirds of those “who competed in the elite wheelchair race are now flying to London to race again” (GUARDIAN, 4/17).

OTHER WEEKEND RACES PREPARE: USA TODAY’s Kelly Whiteside reports “just about 8,000 people are expected to run a 4-mile race in Central Park this weekend to benefit the city's parks.” NYRR President & CEO Mary Wittenberg said that there would be “increased security” for the race. A new stipulation requires runners "to use clear bags, instead of their own backpacks, to store their gear" (USA TODAY, 4/17). Meanwhile, Salt Lake City Marathon Dir Steve Bingham said no one has withdrawn from Saturday's event. Bingham is “encouraging athletes to bring only necessary items in their gear bags” and is asking fans "to leave bags and backpacks at home” (DESERET NEWS, 4/17).

The Boston Marathon bombings have “already raised a chilling and perhaps unanswerable question for organizers of other major road races: how to better police events that can include tens of thousands of runners and millions of spectators spread across miles of roads,” according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. It is “all but impossible to control every corner of a racecourse, especially for marathons in cities like Boston, London and New York that wind through and over narrow city streets and bridges, offering places to hide for bombs and snipers.” But security experts said that the police “can secure the most vulnerable parts of a course, including the start and finish lines and grandstands, to ward off would-be attackers, and use searches, bomb-sniffing dogs and other techniques to minimize the risks elsewhere.” Race organizers, the police and security experts “will have just days to prepare for their next major challenge, marathons in London and Hamburg, Germany, which will be run Sunday.” Hamburg Marathon CEO Frank Thaleiser said that 400 police officers "would be on duty guarding the 15,300 runners and diverting traffic.” U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that he was “absolutely confident the course could be protected.” Security experts expect police "to add security near the most susceptible parts” of the N.Y. Marathon course, including “the starting line at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island and the finish line in Central Park.” Spectators also could “see more random searches and displays of force by the police to keep would-be attackers off guard.” N.Y. police will “face their first test this weekend when two smaller races will be run in Manhattan, including the 9/11 Memorial 5K in Lower Manhattan and a four-mile run in Central Park” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17).

INSURING THE RISKS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Kevin Helliker writes “high among the list of concerns” for Road Runners Club of American Exec Dir Jean Knaack is “whether race-insurance policies will cover bombings of the sort that struck Boston's marathon.” Organizers of many races “obtain insurance through RRCA, although the Boston Marathon acquires insurance independently.” Knaack said, “Terrorism insurance is almost cost prohibitive." Helliker notes another big concern of race execs is “how to go about bolstering security if ‘bolstering security’ means trying to screen tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of spectators lining a 26.2-mile course.” Former elite marathon runner and coach Alberto Salazar said, "How do you secure a marathon now? It could be that a mile from the finish, you need more surveillance, but I don't know what the answer will be" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/17). Toronto police said that they have “no plans to bring in additional officers" for the city's marathon in May despite Monday’s bombing. GoodLife Fitness Marathon Race Dir Jay Glassman yesterday said, “Our venue is 42 kilometres long … and it’s just not feasible to lock down that entire venue. You’re talking about the entire city” (TORONTO STAR, 4/17).

DIFFICULT SITUATION: The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan noted making the entire length of a marathon course completely secure will be a "very, very difficult situation for the authorities to confront.” Ryan: "You can’t police 26 miles, and that’s before we even get into the discussion about the immediate area and the commerce that goes on. It’s not anything that can be cordoned off" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/16). Greater Boston Track Club coach Tom Derderian said, "This is a 26-mile foot race. With both sides of the street, that's 52 miles to secure. How? You can't have everyone go through metal detectors." Marine Corps Marathon Race Dir Rick Nealis said, "In stadiums, turnstiles, hardened buildings, you can control who's going in, and do all the safety checks and have a secure event. On roads, in an open venue, when you take 26.2 miles of open space, it's the beauty of the sport and at the same time, in this day and age, part of the risk assessment. Unless we decide we're going to run around a track in quarter-mile loops hundreds of times" (AP, 4/17). 

New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority President & CEO Wayne Hasenbalg said that the Boston Marathon bombing “hasn’t triggered immediate action” by Super Bowl XLVIII planners “because the security committee has been working on anti-terrorism measures for the past two years,” according to John Brennan of the Bergen RECORD. MetLife Stadium President & CEO Brad Mayne said, "Sometimes, things happen and venues are left scrambling and (stadium executives are) saying, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ But we already have been preparing, and we have programs in place. The coordination has been fantastic, and people will still feel safe when they come next year." Brennan writes the marathon is “a very different event than a Super Bowl, because thousands of people can walk past the area near the finish line -- creating greater danger that a deadly package can be dropped off.” A MetLife Stadium official said that fans attending the Super Bowl “will have to provide identification and be searched in an area about 500 feet from the entrances” (Bergen RECORD, 4/17). The AP’s Tom Canavan reported the NFL “plans to take what investigators learn in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and incorporate it into its security plans for the cold-weather Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.” The league yesterday said that it has “raised its security levels for all its games and events since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has “designated the Super Bowl as a Level One National Security Event for the past decade.” Everyone entering Super Bowl stadiums since Sept. 11 “has been subject to security screenings, including metal detectors, pat-downs, and other special security checks.” The FAA also “institutes temporary flight restrictions,” and no blimps or other aircraft “are allowed to circle the premises” (AP, 4/16).

CHANGING THE FOCUS OF LEAGUE OFFICIALS: Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted there has been "so much enhancement over the years" regarding security inside NFL stadiums, but Monday's bombings "should put a greater focus on the things that can go on outside the stadium.” There needs to be a "greater sensitivity now about where people congregate while trying to get into the stadium, tailgates." Florio: "It’s going to require everyone to be more sensitive to their surroundings.” However, at a time when the NFL is "very concerned about making sure as many people as possible go to games instead of staying home, this is the kind of thing that could cause more people to choose to stay home and watch games on TV” (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 4/16).

The challenges of keeping fans engaged with pro sports was a big topic during the opening session of the '13 Sports Facilities & Franchises Symposium, which featured D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall and Sabres President Ted Black. Hall said that personally engaging D'Backs fans is a big part of his day-to-day job, and that he often spends two or three hours answering fan e-mails and tweets after games. He added that he thinks teams are doing a better job of listening to fans' criticism in the social media era. “You can't be reactionary," Hall said. "Be proactive, have the right relationships and line of communication with your fans." He said the D'Backs also have a season-ticket advisory board that rotates each year, and is treated "like board members" for the team. Among the changes implemented by the team based on fan input was opening Chase Field 30 minutes early for season-ticket holders. Meanwhile, Black said the Sabres opened a suggestion box for the fans, and received 30,000 responses. Fans suggested everything from changing the colors of paint in the lower bowl, to adding a cup shelf above the urinals in the men's room. Black added that the Sabres fan-blog community, despite frequent criticism, represents the type of fans that every team wants. "They dedicate hours and hours of their life, and don't ask us for anything,” he said. “So we try to engage them." The in-venue impact of fan engagement is felt by every franchise in pro sports, as Black said that 30-35% of the Sabres' revenue comes from ticket sales. He said the team's season-ticket waiting list of 3,000 fans "won't last forever." Black: "That can disappear like rain evaporating on a hot sidewalk. The day you take it for granted, it's going to slap you in the face." Hall said D'Backs ticket sales account for closer to 50% of total revenue.

TWITTER HELPS, BUT ISN’T DRIVING REVENUE: Both Hall and Black emphasized the positive impact Twitter has had on fan engagement, branding and PR. But Black said that social media is not a revenue driver for the Sabres. He said, "It's first and foremost a way to connect. People have been struggling with how to monetize it for a long time. And that may come, but it has to be the right scale, too. You could do it now, but you could end up pissing off more people than it's worth. For us, it's just part of trying to be front and center, be as transparent as we can be." However, Hall said a recent ticket promotion solely communicated via Twitter resulted in more than 2,000 tickets sold. The team offered special pricing for a weekday series against the Pirates, and Hall tweeted the promotion, which was then re-tweeted by the team's official account. Both Hall and Black said they frequently respond personally to tweets and e-mails from fans.

OWNER ACCESSIBILITY: Some in the Buffalo media have recently called for Sabres Owner Terry Pegula to be more accessible after the team parted ways with longtime coach Lindy Ruff and traded away many fan favorites. Black said Pegula is typically only available to the media two or three times a year, and he thinks that is appropriate. He added, "I would like to find more opportunities for Terry to interact with the fans. Interacting with the media is important. But to me, it's more of having Terry accessible to the fans." Black said that town hall-style meetings with fans and special events with season-ticket holders are more effective methods of ownership transparency than making owners available to the media more frequently.

TEARING DOWN THE WALLS: Hall and Black also discussed the evolution of the relationship between the business side and team operations side of pro sports organizations. Hall said, "It's not ‘us and them,' you have to make sure you tear down that wall. So often in the past, it used to be, 'Ugh, the suits.'" He added, "We don't have that now. It's not us and them, it's a real 'we.' It's one family. The players feel it. The coaching staff feels it. And they know how important the corporate partners are." Black said that Sabres GM Darcy Regier attends weekly business operations meetings. Hall said that both business and team operations personnel were involved in the interview process when the D'Backs were searching for a new GM this past offseason. He said Exec VP/Business Operations Cullen Maxey, Exec VP & CFO Tom Harris, Special Assistant to the President & CEO Roland Hemand, former D'Backs LF Luis Gonzalez and others were integral in the decision to hire Exec VP & GM Kevin Towers. Hall said, "They interviewed all the candidates along with me, and helped make the decision." Hall and Black also stressed the importance of open communication lines between both sides when it comes to player appearances. While each said that the vast majority of their players are happy to attend community and charity based events, Black added that pushback from players and coaches can occur when the marketing staff is scheduling too many sponsor-focused events for any one player. Hall said D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson will at times turn to the front office and ask for less marketing event requests for a certain player.