Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Stadium perimeter security also mean keeping access under control

Potential security threats keep evolving. It’s a distressing reality that we continually need to adapt to—one that particularly weighs heavily on the minds of stakeholders at major sports venues as they explore security solutions to prevent drone, vehicular and other dangerous assaults.

Strong Countermeasures
Fortunately, perimeter security regulations and league standards for strong countermeasures are now in place to help form a primary line of defense. Instrumental among them are access control technologies.

For stadiums and arenas, balancing the fan experience with strengthened security measures presents challenges. How do you maintain an inviting, festive game day atmosphere while strictly adhering to rules and ensuring safety without projecting an invasive, fortress-like setting?

Designing the most effective security technology and procedures into new sports facility construction as well as upgrades to existing ones takes true teamwork. It requires professional team owners, athletic department leaders, venue operators, law enforcement and consultants to invest intensive energy and time to carefully evaluate the unique attributes of a venue and what it will take to protect it.

What’s included in a facility’s perimeter security complement of technology and solutions depends on what the owner, architect, developer and jurisdiction want and require as well as how they want the venue to look and be accessed by the public—a blend of security, convenience and aesthetics.

Perimeter security includes bollards, walls and other barriers for vehicle standoff distancing and preventing hostile vehicle attacks; gate control and screening for fans and visitors; fences to keep out nefarious intruders; credentialed access control to parking and entries for players and staff; and special locks for hatches and doors to limit access to and from rooftops and tunnels.

Unmanned Infrastructure—Less Obvious yet Equally Critical
Controlling access to unmanned infrastructure is also key to perimeter security at sports venues. Consider all the street-level cabinets housing Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) controls on surrounding roadways or enclosures for digital signage electronics and fiber optics outside the venue as well as nearby electrical substation control cabinets. All are connected to networks and vital to the safety and operations of a stadium or arena. All are unmanned.

Unauthorized entry not only opens the door to potential vandalism and terrorist acts. It also exposes network switches displaying IP addresses, gateways and subnet masks for anyone to see—an invitation to hack the network and cyber-attacks.

Even though physical access to this critical infrastructure can have an immediate and widespread impact, most cabinets are still secured with a generic physical key that can easily be obtained and duplicated. That’s a serious security threat anywhere. To prevent that possibility, entry into these cabinets needs to be authorized, managed, and monitored in real-time. Thankfully, this can be accomplished with robust solutions that are available for both online and offline access control.

An example of how effective online locks can be is what the city of Atlanta did to remotely monitor and manage who could access traffic cabinets near its premier football stadium. As part of a comprehensive plan to ensure public safety and movement throughout the city during the week leading up to the biggest game of the year, the city found it necessary to provide creative physical and cyber security solutions that extend around the stadium. These included a combination of online integrated cabinet locks and offline intelligent key solutions to secure each door on traffic cabinets within a one-mile radius of the stadium and player hotels.

These solutions continue to provide online access control for real-time monitoring and remote lock/unlock as well as a fast, easy, and affordable way to upgrade traffic cabinets where special wiring, real-time monitoring, and control are not required. City and transportation officials are now better able to instantly manage who has access. They can readily receive alerts when something’s awry and generate audit trails that allow them to know how long cabinets are open and when and who might be on-site, ensuring greater transparency and security.

Access Management Back at the Stadium Itself
Fixed and popup bollards at the Atlanta venue provide vehicle standoff and barriers to protect property and people while anti-climb fences stop intruders from scaling and cutting their way into places where they don’t belong. Both are highly effective deterrents. At the same time, they’re aesthetically designed to meld with the look and feel of the stadium without interfering with the welcoming spirit and excitement of the fan experience.

Access control solutions at the Atlanta stadium stretch from perimeter doors like receiving, loading, player/staff parking entrances, and personnel doors to deeper locations within the facility such as storage, owner/executive suites, server rooms, and more. In fact, our company was involved in providing hardware and access control solutions for literally hundreds of doors at this venue. Most were PoE lock and access installations which were the specified preference for seamless interfacing with the stadium’s network. PoE solutions are also much more energy-efficient and far easier to install than legacy access control solutions.

The Final Score
Securing the vast grounds and facilities of sports venues, access to its entrances (from ground level to rooftop), and streamlining pedestrian flow are all essential to stadium and arena perimeter security game plans. But as the enlightening example in Atlanta demonstrates, securing access to unmanned infrastructure is also critical in light of ever-changing potential threats that can impact systems we never had to worry about before. Keeping up is challenging enough.

Staying a step ahead takes vigilance. It’s a huge responsibility that’s vital to the safety of team members, employees, owners, and fans alike, so everyone can feel secure enough to continue enjoying an exciting sporting event experience as far into the future as possible.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Security Today.

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