Entertainment, Stadiums, Arenas: Big Job, Bright Spotlight, Focused Commitment
From the Olympics and the Super Bowl to Lollapalooza, the Iowa Cubs to the luxury clubs at the new Meadowlands Stadium, today’s system integrators see business value in the niche of entertainment, stadium and arena venues.
This vertical, like some others, is similar to the industry’s overall enterprise projects. But it is also vastly different. And the sector carries a spotlighted challenge: Things cannot go wrong when it comes to, say, a Saturday nationally televised football game in a stadium of 100,000 fans.
That is what sets entertainment and sports apart from other types of security system integration. But it is more than that. As compared to college, healthcare, factory and office building security, this vertical’s facilities are less used but make the effectiveness of security more important. The systems must work the day of the event — no exceptions.
And speaking of special needs, the integrator and his or her equipment must mesh with the facility’s physical security officers, law enforcement agencies, fan communications and even Homeland Security requirements. It can get dangerous fast. For example, at the last Super Bowl XLVI in Lucas Oil Stadium, there was a sniper’s nest perched at the top of the stadium, manned by specially trained personnel who were in communication with field security by voice but also by security video.
No doubt, integrators design and install the big three — intrusion, access control and security video. But there are special applications that can range from biometrics, so that the million dollar players don’t have to carry cards; video analytics to identify faces or bags left behind; and, for some arenas, asset protection systems that alert when people try to steal metal seating, for example.
The biggest trend? It is megapixel cameras, a natural solution, especially for outdoor stadiums and arenas where one camera can cover a huge amount of territory while also allowing multiple streams from zones.
Interested in this vertical? There are numerous and unique ways to niche into. Most integrators successfully playing this sector have been there for a number of years. Others have been referred by enterprise customers that have a relationship with the stadium or arena. Local businesses and government agencies often advise or work with these facilities. And it cannot hurt to sponsor a skybox or suite as another way to identify with the team.
Integrator Strauss Security Solutions of Urbandale, Iowa, recently provided access controls to the AAA Iowa Cubs (Brivo ACS WebService) at its home field, Principal Park in Des Moines, Iowa. The park, home to 72 Iowa Cubs games each season, sees more than 500,000 fans through its gates each year.
Prior to upgrading access control capabilities, the Iowa Cubs relied on locks and keys, motion detection sensors, and door ajar alerts. But as Jeff Tilley, director of stadium operations, says, “We felt we had a certain number of doors where we wanted more information and more control; we wanted to better document who was coming and going and to limit access. So, we contacted our integrator, Strauss.”
Tilley shopped around and looked at a number of different access control systems. For the stadium, ease of use and a good fit for their management needs were top priorities.
The system now manages upwards of 100 employees, interns, and part-time help divided into approximately 12 groups with specific access days and times as well as access locations for each group. Each group’s specific access privileges track their function at the ballpark, grounds crew, cleaning crews, front office interns, concessions, stadium operations, and others.
For Karen Goldsworth of Strauss Security Solutions, a major challenge in this vertical is scheduling. “There are not set schedules,” she says, and then there is retrofitting when running wires. One advance: “The hosted option for security makes sense as well as the ability of the client to unlock a door or view activity through a mobile device.” Strauss has been a long term ticket holder at the park and used that for business promotions, a relationship that helped in the integrator relationship, too.
For some, there is more stadium business with less.
Home of the New York Jets and New York Giants, the New Meadowlands Stadium is one of the nation’s premier sports and entertainment venue located in East Rutherford, N.J. The venue also hosts a variety of events including internationally broadcast concerts, soccer games, college football games, lacrosse matches and corporate functions.
There are more than 20 Crestron (Rockleigh, N.J.) systems installed in the stadium, providing control over numerous audio, video and lighting systems. A large portion of the stadium AV work was conducted by Hercules, Calif.-based Pro Media/Ultrasound. The integrator’s work included the largest and most high-profile spaces in the stadium, including all four of the main luxury clubs, the Jets locker room, the Jets Private Room and owner’s suites, Interview Room and the Giants Legacy Club. Dallas-based Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams provided AV design consulting services for many of the spaces.
The stadium operations team, the first in NFL history to manage a facility purposely designed to host two NFL teams, had specific requirements for a project of this size. One of the most important requests was that every touch screen implements three distinct “themes” tailored to the events scheduled at the stadium.
For example, when the Giants or Jets are home, the touch screens and lighting reflect the home team colors and logos throughout the venue. For all other events, a neutral background and stadium logo adorn the facility.
A challenge Pro Media/Ultrasound faced to satisfy two NFL teams in one facility was managing different Crestron solutions across a centralized building management system. The sheer number of systems, combined with individuals with different skill sets operating the various systems required the user interface to present a consistent appearance throughout the venue. “This was a very large endeavor with many different systems to incorporate into one seamless integrated control solution,” says Demetrius Palavos of Pro Media/Ultrasound.
Integrating control of the AV systems in the various clubs and suites with the stadium’s building management system was accomplished by using an Ethernet-based “protocol translator,” which allows a Crestron system to communicate directly with any number of building management systems. A primary function of nearly every system is controlling Cisco StadiumVision-enabled displays, an IP-based content distribution system which displays television channels, live in-game feeds, advertising and/or food menus on more than 2,200 HD displays throughout the stadium.
A dedicated PC in the security command center provides remote control of every club and suite, enabling remote system control via any Web browser. Additionally, staff can remotely monitor, manage and troubleshoot AV systems in every space. The system is also used as an energy-saving scheduling system for lighting control in the larger spaces that handle special events.
Another unique integrated application, outside of typical security, is at the New York Rangers professional hockey team, when it approached Savant Systems of Hyannis, Mass., seeking a simple, dynamic and user-generated means to alert players and staff of key messages and statistical information related to the team’s daily schedule and activities. These alerts were to be displayed on the 12 HDTVs located throughout the team’s primary practice facility in Tarrytown N.Y. All messaging was to be created and managed by staff members from their personal computers, iPhones and iPads.
The Rangers’ team management also wanted the ability to have team members play their own music throughout the weight and locker room facilities with immediate ease. Savant provided the ultimate solution, a switching, messaging and media system controlled and managed from an app.
Roger Starnes, regional sales manager, fire & security, southeast with Johnson Controls of Milwaukee, Wis., sees a bigger integration picture with the Panthers (NFL), Marlins (MLB), Bobcats and Orlando Magic (both NBA). For stadiums and arenas, “There are a large number of people to protect in such places of assembly. There are also those well paid athletes and other high profile people.”
Starnes says one integrator essential is “to consult with the stakeholders. There are complex security needs that involve homeland security, the team, the facility, local law enforcement, dignitaries organizations booking the facility. It is truly an integrated system approach. There are also areas where a lot of cash is handled. Overall, you need to manage the crowd in a safe manner.”
While the niche does not have many special regulations or requirements, some of the team organizations such as the National Football League and the National Basketball Association and others have special needs, according to the Johnson Controls executive.
And when it comes to technology, Starnes stresses flexibility and scalability as well as IP cameras and devices. While broadcast television is separate from security video, the latter can be used as a way to audit display advertising in the park. So there needs to be unique integration for this application, too. “It’s a matter of protecting the revenue stream.”
Security integration also includes the facility’s command and control center. “Sometimes there may be two of them,” adds Starnes. “Telemetrics can energize command and control through software zones and feeds can be shared with law enforcement.”
Wireless is a trend, especially as security needs change, according to Starnes. Furthermore, security video is being called upon to monitor practice fields, say in the NFL, so that players can be identified by number and that they are wearing pads. There also is some use of biometrics for players who do not wish or cannot handle cards.
Entertainment, stadium and arena security operations “are constantly looking for new technology,” says Matthew Hoeke of Siemens Industry’s Siemens Building Technologies of Buffalo Grove, Ill. He agrees with other integrators about the spotlight impact. “These venues are dependent on what the public thinks about them, including security. They are in the public eye.” And so are the security devices. Hoeke sees the big four technologies as access, video, intercom and alarm.
Among Hoeke’s integration projects: Century Link Center, the convention center and arena, and TD Ameritrade Park, the sports stadium, outdoor entertainment venue, and home of the annual NCAA Baseball World Series. Both are in Omaha and next to one another.
The Siemens executive sees much value in megapixel cameras. “We have four cameras that cover all the 24,000 feet,” he points out, adding that there also are analog cameras with encoders, too. For the megapixels, “within software, each section of the seating has its own view while the entire image also is being recorded.” And, for concerts, depending on entertainer agreements, filtering of the camera images can block out certain scenes.
Hoeke mentions that, when integrators work with entertainment, stadium and arena clients, flexibility is essential. “With various events, for example, the stage location can even change so you and the technology must be open to those changes. And lighting challenges can get crazy with fan cameras flashing, entertainment lights and even explosions on stage.” He also sees use of analytics. “A virtual trip wire protects the center’s parking lot” from intrusion from a public river walkway. And, when it comes to access, about 90 percent of the controls are in the back of the house, though in some cases there is both card and PIN at a couple of locations, he says.
Hoeke comments that such jobs are linked into the IT operation at the facilities. “They budget hard and like to plan far ahead. So service agreements — bumper to bumper — are helpful to the facility as well as to the integrator.”
Among the integrator concerns that need addressing, according to Erroll Southers, managing director, counter-terrorism and infrastructure protection with TAL Global Corporation, San Jose, Calif., is the fact that security staffing is often part time with minimum training. He adds that terror threats are real no matter the venue or profile. As a consultant, Southers sees emerging technologies such as facial recognition playing an increasing role. “Also object left behind video has its place, too.
“A solid start for a relationship of integrators to entertainment, stadium and arena security is a vulnerability assessment,” says Southers. “It’s one way to bring people together” with a shared agenda.
For Vision Security Technologies, an integrator in Birmingham, Ala., the door opened to stadium and arena security projects through their work with universities. In a region where sports reign supreme, Vision works with widely recognizable names, such as Bryant-Denny Stadium and Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Jordan-Hare Stadium and Auburn Arena in Auburn, and the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
Stadiums and arenas face unique challenges with security, considering that they host crowds that can exceed 100,000 fans, all coming and going at once, and not all of them with the same allegiances. Another issue is the threat of being targeted because of the large crowds they draw. access control and video surveillance are major components of the safety and security of these facilities, according to Barry Komisar, whose company is also a member of Security-Net.
Vision’s Jamie Nolen knows the importance of this vertical and security for it. “These are hard targets. On television, the whole country is watching the events.” Everyone, he says, comes together through the security and life safety missions. “There is the command and control center, facility security, team security, city police, EMS, fire and at times homeland security, too,” says Nolen.
The Vision executive agrees with other integrators that there are benefits in megapixel cameras. “We have switched to megapixel cameras. There is a growing role for video analytics. And finger biometrics plays a role, too. We have mobile surveillance units that can be temporarily applied for traffic flow and hot spots. There also is the need for mass notification systems.”
Playing the Game
What sets entertainment and sports apart: