A Series All Its Own

A Series All Its Own

A swarm of visitors means security must step up to the plate

Each year as summer draws to a close, the small industrial community of South Williamsport, Pa., swells to accommodate more than 300,000 visitors to the culminating event of the world’s largest youth sports organization, Little League Baseball’s World Series. Little League Baseball is the only youth sports organization to be chartered by Congress. More than 2.6 million children currently participate in Little League programs in every state and in other countries throughout the world.

From its origins in 1939 as a three-team Williamsport league, the Little League World Series has grown to include more than 250 players on 16 teams, representing more than 75 countries. The event is held at the 66-acre Little League complex, which includes a headquarters building, five baseball diamonds, practice facilities, housing, dining and recreation areas, the Howard J. Lamade Stadium (site of the championship game), the new Volunteer Stadium, a conference center and the Little League Museum. The headquarters building, which is operational year round, houses all Little League administrative and business offices.

At a time when terrorism and random violence against ordinary citizens are global concerns, the Little League World Series poses numerous and complex security challenges for several reasons. Series participants, who spend up to two weeks on the Little League campus, are children from multiple countries who speak a variety of languages. The games themselves are held outdoors and are open to the public free of charge. Furthermore, the championship games are televised nationally, bringing them to a wider audience.

Now on Deck

James Ferguson, director of security for Little League Baseball International, first became aware of Lenel technology when he saw a demonstration of the company’s badging system, OnGuard ID CredentialCenter. Ferguson later approached Lenel to inquire if the manufacturer could help Little League Baseball better differentiate Series participants from one another. Lenel readily agreed to step up to the plate by providing a badging system to issue secure photo identification badges to 200 players and coaches at the 1999 World Series.

A database of registrants was downloaded into the system before the games to verify the identity of participants with the help of schools, parents and coaches. The benefits of storing cardholder data in one central location were critically important for medical and other emergencies that require the rapid retrieval of such information.

Series staff were trained in the use of OnGuard BadgeDesigner software, which enabled them to produce a custom badge template. The Series staff members who designed the template and operated the system were themselves youths, a testament to the simplicity of OnGuard’s user interface.

“The badges were the biggest hit at the Series,” Ferguson said. “Prior to that, we had no easy way of identifying individual players. Each player wore an official Series baseball cap, which also indicated the individual’s team on the back. The badges gave us a way to distinguish individual players, as well as volunteers and staff.”

The Relationship Continues, the System Expands

Each year since then, Lenel has contributed technology, supplies, services, manpower and expertise to help safeguard Series attendees and restrict access by unauthorized people. Over the years, the functionality provided by the OnGuard system has grown in breadth and sophistication.

In addition to identity management and badging, the Little League’s On- Guard installation now provides access control, alarm monitoring, video surveillance, and intelligent video (analytics) capabilities.

The flexibility of the design enabled the integrator to install and run the system on the Little League campus’ in-place computer network. The system implementation has been cost-efficient in both time and money, making the most of the Little League’s existing infrastructure investment.

Little League installed ILS offline and wireless locks at its headquarters and on the main stadium doors for media, first aid, security, and merchandising. ILS is the security industry’s first offline and wireless electromechanical locks that were built specifically for integration, bringing traditional online access control functionality to electromechanical locks.

With ILS, Little League was able to provide security for locations within its facilities that were previously costprohibitive or difficult to address. For instance, sleeping quarters in Little League’s Lundy conference center, which has 14 bedrooms, were recently secured with ILS locks, eliminating the need for traditional lock and key. And, because ILS employs stand-alone power and an intelligent on-board internal database, the system allows Little League facilities to continue operation and secure rooms even when power and/or network connectivity is lost.

Each year, the Series takes place during the last two weeks of August, but preparations begin months prior, and volunteers work up to 16 hours a day the weekend before the Series begins. Among them, two dozen Lenel employees—including the company’s president—contribute their time and talents, pulling cable, mounting cameras and getting the systems set up and configured to ensure flawless security operations during the event.

“The Little League World Series is unique among sporting events, and we are honored as a company to help provide a safe and secure environment for this international event, ensuring the safety of the players, their families and all spectators who come to Williamsport each year to enjoy the games,” said Luis Orbegoso, president of Lenel. “We are continually updating the security system at Little League with state-of-the-art technologies, such as ILS, to ensure that Little League remains a safe and enjoyable event that leverages the latest cutting-edge security solutions.”

Prior to the start of the Series, staff, volunteers and their guests can be enrolled into the system via the Little League Intranet from anywhere in the world. In addition, background checks are performed on adult participants, who must be approved by Little League Baseball. Lenel’s Professional Services team developed customized computing scripts that import information about each approved person and create a badge record for that person in the database. Each participant can obtain his or her identification badge upon arrival at the Series.

Over the years, the number of players, managers, umpires, grounds crew, facility staff, administrative staff and media representatives who are issued secure identification badges has grown to nearly 2,500 each Series.

Intelligent video is used for crowd monitoring and analysis of activity in particularly sensitive areas of the sprawling campus. Among the areas protected are the Little League Baseball headquarters building, the two stadiums and The Creighton J. Hale International Grove—known as The Grove—where all 16 teams in the Series are housed. Players and coaches spend much of their time in The Grove, a fenced, wooded complex that includes dormitory housing, dining and recreational facilities for players and coaches. Very few people are authorized to be in this secured area—not even players’ parents are given access.

“The restricted area in The Grove provides privacy and safety for the participants,” Ferguson said. “It’s a secure place where they can go to relax and get away from the media and crowds while they are here. Of course, the players can leave The Grove to visit with their parents at any time.”

Collaboration Helps Avert Crises

The integrated capabilities and centralized database of the system have proven invaluable in helping local and state police, the FBI, the Secret Service and other government staff protect lives, facilities and the campus grounds during the Series. Among the real-life crises that the system has helped to avert:

  • A player was diagnosed with the measles at the beginning of the Series. Using access control, Little League staff were able to determine the identities of everyone who had been exposed to the player so that proper medical intervention could be undertaken before a major outbreak occurred.
  • A child was located in a crowd of 20,000 by using a description of his clothing in conjunction with OnGuard IntelligentVideo analytics.

Volunteer Tom Lyons, who serves as supervisor of electronic security for the Series, describes the value that electronic security has brought to the games: “Everyone understands why security is so important at this event, and we all work together to provide the best safety and security measures possible,” he said. “Using security management technology, we’ve been able to locate lost children in large crowds, provide nighttime monitoring to critical security equipment and detect items left behind.”

Integrated Security Provides Numerous Benefits

Little League Baseball’s OnGuard system installation has addressed a number of limitations that previously existed. These include:

  • Player identification. Prior to the implementation of electronic badging capabilities, there was no easy way to distinguish individual players. Using OnGuard ID CredentialCenter, photo ID badges are now issued to all Series participants.
  • Crowd monitoring. Digital video surveillance capabilities help make the job of monitoring huge crowds manageable.
  • Safeguarding children. The photo ID badges issued to Series participants are also access cards that incorporate access control technology. Cardholders must present their cards at card readers installed at access points throughout The Grove in order to gain entry to that area.
  • Averting terroristic threats. Video surveillance and intelligent video capabilities can detect suspicious packages left behind or vehicles that are driving too slowly, too quickly or entering a forbidden area, and other activities that might be out of the ordinary.
  • Locating lost articles. Using intelligent video algorithms, the system can help locate misplaced articles and lost people. It can also detect items that have been left unattended and are therefore suspect.
  • Loitering. Intelligent video can be used to detect loiterers after hours. The technology has also been used during the off-season to track down youths who are truant from local schools.
  • Medical intervention. Using video surveillance, injured or stricken individuals can be quickly located so that medical attention can be provided.
  • Guard rounds confirmation. Cameras can be fixed on ATM machines and other high-security areas such as police encampments to verify that the police are making their required rounds.
  • Evacuation to safe area. In the event of a threat or other dangerous situation, a roll call (mustering) can be performed using OnGuard Access, which can report the current and previously known locations of all cardholders, ensuring that all cardholders are accounted for.
  • Identity verification. Video verification can be used in particularly sensitive areas, as follows: when a person presents a badge to a card reader, live video is displayed alongside the cardholder’s photo of record in the database. This enables security personnel to visually verify whether the live person is in fact the cardholder.

“For more than a decade, Lenel has been an integral part of the electronic security at the Little League World Series,” Ferguson said. “Every year, we have supported the overall security effort at the World Series by contributing the time, talent and resources necessary to make the event safe and enjoyable for all of the players, spectators and volunteers.

“Our system has allowed the World Series to reach the cutting edge of electronic security technology by providing us with the latest in photo ID credentialing, access control and digital video technology. As always, the number-one priority at the World Series is the safety and security of the participants. Little League Baseball sincerely appreciates Lenel’s efforts in helping us reach that goal.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Security Today.


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