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Volume 22 No. 32
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Active, and proactive

Rick Fenton / Ilitch Holdings

As vice president of corporate security for Ilitch Holdings, Rick Fenton’s domain is a broad one for someone in the sports space.

Security operations of all the Ilitch companies fall under his command. That includes the Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Park, but also incorporates Olympic Entertainment, the Little Caesars pizza chain and Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, a nationwide distributor of food and restaurant supplies.

Fenton is considered by his peers to be one of the most proactive security directors in sports, and is likely to have already adopted a security practice before a league has required it. Prior to joining Ilitch Holdings, he retired as the executive commander of the Wayne County Sheriff Department after more than 27 years of service.

Last year, Fenton oversaw the biggest team-level investment in Vapor Wake dogs, who are trained to detect explosives through particles in the air left by moving targets. The dogs now patrol the 50-acre District Detroit development, an expanse that includes the Ilitch sports venues as well as businesses, condominiums and parks.

This summer, Fenton worked with N.Y.-based biometric security firm Clear to install fingerprint scanners outside Comerica Park. The technology is similar to the precheck process used by the Transportation Security Administration and not only allows faster entry for the fans that go through the five-minute screening process but also provides the team with peace of mind knowing that those patrons’ names have been run through a criminal database.

Additionally, Little Caesars Arena earlier this month was awarded the first ever Safety Act designation and certification for an arena in the United States. It is the highest level of protection issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

The federal recognition gives the Red Wings, as well as Ilitch Holdings and Olympia Entertainment, protection from having to pay claims that might be filed by victims in the event of a terrorist attack at the arena. The Tigers received the same award for Comerica Park in 2015.

The security policies and procedures of the arena’s predecessor, Joe Louis Arena, in 2016 made it the first professional sports facility in the nation to earn the Sport Event Security Aware designation from the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, a recognition that carried over to the Red Wings’ new home.