If You Build It, They Will Come

As sport and entertainment venues extend their perimeters to increase and enhance guest experience opportunities, new design concepts must strike a delicate balance between security risk management and guest services. While these extensions can be great for fans and the venue’s owners, they can also present a myriad of challenges for even a tested security professional.

The balance between security and guest services has often been viewed as a zero-sum game; with more security measures deployed, some may perceive the venue or its expanded grounds as less guest friendly, so fewer individuals are inclined to visit. However, a more positive take is that the provision of a safe and secure environment – the exhaustive pursuit and inclusion of planning, advanced training and operational capabilities – is the pinnacle of guest service. Guests actively want to know that their safety is not just a consideration, but a factor and priority.

Bricks, Mortar and Security

Expansion elements of a sport and entertainment venue’s extended perimeter may include a mix of hotels, office buildings, convention centers, cinemas, residential homes, amphitheaters, plaza areas, restaurants, retail stores, bars and nightclubs, and other viable attractions and the systems that support them (e.g., parking decks, mass transit hubs, delivery points and so on). These elements offer a 24/7 live, work and play entertainment destination with strong cross-demographic and cross-consumer appeal.

The dramatic rise of these destinations is a relatively recent, albeit growing, phenomena. However, tragic events over the last decade-and-a-half – Las Vegas and Manchester (2017), Orlando and Nice (2016), Aurora, Colorado (2012), Norman, Oklahoma (2005) and so on – underscore the threats faced by virtually every expansion element. Sport and entertainment venues themselves have never been immune to threats like these, but when considering the vulnerability and consequences at a venue surrounded by high-traffic establishments, the risks rise.

The lure and success of these dynamic destinations rest on their ability to continually offer something unique and recurring for everyone across the consumer spectrum. At the same time, these elements must evolve to anticipate and exceed the consumer’s expectations. Expectations include knowing — not hoping — that the venue and its surroundings are not only trendy and appealing, but also safe.

The level of comfort (i.e., self and family safety and security) is as much a part of the venue decision matrix as ticket prices, amenities and transportation. Guests will not visit or return to a venue that is viewed as unsafe. As venues expand their perimeters to enhance the guest experience, the guest’s evaluation of the safety and security of that perimeter expands as well. Therefore, strategies and operational capabilities must be employed to identify, assess and counter the threats facing this fast-growing, enhanced entertainment environment. These strategies, in turn, must be communicated and demonstrated to the guests.

Many Risks, Many Responses

Strategic thought and omnidirectional planning must be given to the identification and mitigation of threats that may be vertical, long distance, aerial, pedestrian, vehicular, weaponized or improvised. Moreover, planning should determine how to bring tactical and operational solutions to bear. These solutions, undertaken with a holistic understanding of the interdependency of the expansion elements, would include but not be limited to the following efforts:

  • Incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
  • Establish a security risk management-based Memorandum of Understanding to guide relationships, responsibilities and responses
  • Establish coordinated communications structures, awareness programs and incident reporting mechanisms
  • Implement consortium-guided security risk management and business continuity programs
  • Schedule regular drills and exercises held in conjunction with federal, state and local public safety and emergency management agencies
  • Integrate public safety sub-stations into the expanded perimeter
  • Develop and implement common core-element employee training
  • Establish analytic, operational and tactical response units
  • Schedule regular perimeter threat assessments and incorporate emerging technology recommendations and application mechanisms
  • Establish critical infrastructure inspection, maintenance and enhancement programs

Favorable economics and consistently positive guest reactions ensure that sport and entertainment venues continue to enhance and expand their perimeters and give life to the dream of the ultimate guest experience. Pursuing the strategic expanded perimeter protection measures above and others can prevent the dream turning into a tragic nightmare.