Editor's note: Look for more Sports Venue Safety articles as we publish a new one online each day this week. Or, view the entire digital issue here.
My first exposures to the issues of safety and security at a sporting event came when I was eight years old. It was at Old Comiskey, back when the Chicago White Sox were "winning ugly" in the American League West. I remember going to at least half a dozen games that year with my father as the White Sox fought for an AL West championship, but that wasn't the only fighting I witnessed. The fights in the stands became as much of a spectacle as the game itself. It got to a point that we never wondered if a fight would break it, but rather when. Though I attended games with my father, a U.S. Navy SEAL and Golden Gloves boxing champion, I never had a complete sense of safety. Still, I was undeterred. I loved going to Old Comiskey and watching the White Sox despite the extracurricular activities.
Going to any sporting event — be it youth, high school, collegiate or professional — remains something very special to me, and I am proud to share those experiences with my own children. But their gameday experience is vastly different from mine. As the athletes and sports themselves have evolved over the past 30 years, so have the security threats. Unruly fans will always be a staple of any sporting event, but there are new threats that are requiring venue managers to reevaluate how they are protecting their facilities, spectators, athletes and staff. Now more than ever, they need help.
That is why an organization like NCS4 exists. Established in 2006, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi is the leading academic institution in the United States at identifying and addressing safety threats and security risks at sporting events. It has trained more than 4,000 security professionals across the U.S. for intercollegiate and professional sports, as well as 1,000 university and collegiate incident command teams. And it hosts an annual conference that served as my formal introduction to safety and security in this market.
RELATED: Talking Sports Safety at NCS4
As referenced in a Vantage Point column in our flagship publication Athletic Business, the first conference I attended when I joined the AB Media family was the 2013 NCS4 Conference in Orlando. A key focus was on open-access events, given the impact of the Boston Marathon three months prior. Safety and security leaders from all levels were there with one goal in mind: to collaborate on best practices to help one another better protect their athletic facilities. Rarely have I attended an industry event as inspirational as this conference, and when I boarded my plane to return home to Chicago, it was clear what role I needed to play in this process. The athletics industry has organizations and leaders helping shape the future of safety at sporting events, but what it lacked was a media forum devoted exclusively to those leaders.
That is why Sports Venue Safety exists. This is a tool meant to help stadium and security managers at the professional, collegiate and high school levels stay on top of the latest security news, providing the type of insight and analysis that empowers all athletic stadium managers to take a proactive approach to safety at their respective facilities. In this first issue, we take a look at protecting aquatics venues, how to manage an evacuation at your facility, what latest security trends are impacting stadiums and arenas, and dealing with "passionate" spectators on the high school level. We also take you inside this year's NCS4 Conference in Indianapolis, including profiles of key exhibits that attendees can't afford to skip.
Thank you to all the men and women who are working tirelessly to protect our facilities, and I hope you enjoy this inaugural issue of Sports Venue Safety.