The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an iconic Northern California landmark at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Each year huge crowds visit the half-mile-long boardwalk to enjoy amusement park rides, midway games, miniature golf, bowling, entertainment, food or just to experience a beautiful sunset.
What visitors see is a clean, brightly painted and well maintained destination. What they don’t see are the hundreds to thousands of employees working year-round to keep everything working well and looking good.
There’s a team of professionals — including mechanics, carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers, food preparers, IT experts, administrative staff and more — needing to work without interruptions from the public. That’s why the boardwalk’s parent company, the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, recently updated the site’s access control system to provide greater security and convenience to the “back half” of the amusement park.
The old access system had been in place since 2005 and had been running on server software that was no longer supported by the manufacturer, said Don Beres, pre-sales engineer for the Fremont, Calif.-based integrator, Ojo Technology.
“It was time for an update,” he said. “A year earlier, the boardwalk installed new surveillance cameras using Genetec software. So, the decision was made to go with Security Center Synergis, the IP-based access control solution from Genetec, to make for easy integration between the two systems.”
And that’s been the case, according to Will Graham, security technology administrator at the boardwalk. The boardwalk now has integrated video, access control and alarm systems, all within a single platform. With the old access installation, each system had to be monitored separately.
“I love that I can create a virtual alarm zone, associate it with any input or door on our system, tie a PTZ camera to that zone, set the system to bookmark video during an associated alarm, access event, etc., all so seamlessly and in under five minutes,” Graham said. “If a stolen, lost or flagged ID is used on a door, it can trigger an alarm zone; that alarm triggers a PTZ to zoom onto the spot, opening a window on our dispatch office’s station for dispatchers to immediately review. When the alarm is dismissed, the camera returns to its home preset, and investigators can review the bookmarked video later. This is probably the most exciting thing to me about the upgrade.”
The boardwalk has over 400 cameras on the property. That’s enough to tie cameras to about 75 percent of the doors. The access system also keeps a log and a running list of events.
“If we get reports of someone being repeatedly denied access, we can immediately look at the camera footage associated with the event and likely identify the person,” Graham said.
The new access system also quickly became a hero to the boardwalk’s human resources and operational departments. Previously, the HR/operational staff manually enrolled new employees into each separate system (access control, POS, timekeeping, active directory). The boardwalk’s IT group created proprietary in-house software to fully automate the enrollment process for each of these systems, but the software couldn’t be deployed while the previous access control system was in place. Graham said once the Synergis system was in place, the automated enrollment system was turned on and worked great.
“We’re a largely seasonal employer with up to 2,000 new employees each year, so you can imagine what a relief it was to our HR staff to enter data just once,” he said.
While the new access system has worked well, completing the switch-out was a challenge, Beres said. At least parts of the boardwalk are open every day except Christmas. There was no way it could be closed for a few weeks or even days. Access control downtime had to be limited to small areas that could be completed in a day.
The project was completed in the fall of 2017 when the boardwalk was fully opened only on Saturdays and Sundays. But beginning in mid-November the boardwalk was opened from 4 to 9 p.m. daily for select rides, food service and an ice skating rink.
Beres said that one of the keys in getting the job done was pre-building much of the system in the Ojo Technology facilities. When the system was ready, Ojo staff worked closely with Graham’s team to determine the order of installations, which included 224 access-controlled doors.
“It was made clear that we had to be done before 6 a.m. each Friday,” he said. “That meant we had to have everything installed, tested and commissioned at each location, even if that meant working almost 24 hours straight. We couldn’t leave readers offline overnight.”
A member of Graham’s security team was stationed nearby as Ojo technicians worked. Once installation was completed — several days ahead of schedule — switching to the new system went flawlessly.
The Genetec software is “seamless,” Beres said. “We had panels talking to other panels in different buildings. And operation of the new access control system was simple to learn as the boardwalk team was already familiar with the Genetec desktop workstation application, Security Center.”
Looking back at the often frenzied process of a system change-out, Graham has nothing but good words for his integrator.
“Those Ojo guys were great, totally fantastic,” he said.