One hundred and eight years. That's how long the Chicago Cubs had gone without a World Series championship prior to this past fall's Game 7 extra-inning win over the Cleveland Indians. The crowds were ecstatic, to say the least, yet in an age when sports fans' revelry can quickly turn into rioting (just two years prior to the Cubs' win, rowdy San Francisco Giants fans ignited chaos when they lit a couch on fire), the closest Cubs fans came to destruction was covering the walls and streets around Wrigley with chalked dedications.
What will go down as one of the most historic sports events of our lifetimes will do so in part because of the efforts of security and police organizations working to keep order and peace among massive crowds, even as emotions ran high. Gameday Security editor Emily Attwood caught up with Major League Baseball's senior director of security and facility management John Skinner to discuss some of the unique security challenges of the event.
PLANNING ON THE FLY
"Unlike the Super Bowl, where we know what the venue is going to be well in advance, it's a bit of a challenge to prepare for this event. It narrows down in our playoffs from several teams in contention to just two. MLB produces an annual post-season manual that is distributed to all clubs in contention, and there are certain basic requirements they have to meet or be ready to fill in the event that they host World Series games or a championship game. To some degree, that helps us. We're also hopeful that once we've gotten to the World Series, we have staff members who have interacted with the respective agencies servicing the facilities to help us in the planning stages."
THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OF WRIGLEY FIELD
"Wrigley Field was built a long time ago, not with today's risks in mind. Despite the fact that it's going through modifications to make it more secure, the team wants to maintain the ambiance of Wrigley Field. The footprint is in a densely populated quasi-business and residential core, which requires consideration not only for the people who live in and around Wrigley but also the traffic that flows though the side streets.
"The rooftops are also something we have to watch. We try to collaborate with the private vendors across the street. Even though we have metal detectors and screening coming into the facility, we recognize that might not occur in the rooftops that have a visual of the stadium bowl, so we try to work with local merchants to share our concerns about potential problems."
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COPS AND OTHER KEY COLLABORATORS
"We have resident security agents who are active police officers who serve as consultants in each Major League city. In Cleveland, that agent happens to be the deputy chief of police. He kept us well-informed of everything that was going on, from intelligence-gathering to some of the challenges of having a world championship basketball team directly across the street. The Cavaliers were planning a ring ceremony and they were kind enough to push it back so it didn't interfere. The cooperation between sports entities goes a long way.
"Much of our success is on the backs of the local law enforcement. We were pleased to have contacts in both Cleveland and Chicago. The City of Chicago was incredible. Obviously it's a large agency, but they were very gracious in providing us with a huge amount of resources and were very focused on the risk that is associated with mass gatherings, particularly in Wrigleyville, which is a gathering point for so many Cubs fans across the nation, whether they're ticketholders or not. They thought of all contingency plans — everything from video surveillance to removing glassware to blocking off streets."
"Knowing full well that there were going to be some challenges for Game 7, our resident security agent reached across the table to the Ohio State Patrol to bring in an additional 50 troopers to be present at the gates. That visible factor there worked remarkably well for us."
ADJUSTING FOR MODERN THREATS
"We made some changes this year to some of our security protocol. We enhanced our credentialing system. We found that people are trying to duplicate credentials and obtain access with false credentials. Those individuals were stopped, those credentials seized and some people arrested.
"Several years ago we had a propensity of drones in our open-air facilities. Through the efforts of the FAA and our stadiums, we have no drone zones and we've posted signs. We're working with third-party vendors, looking for technologies to mitigate that issue. Even for our broadcast partners, who would love to get great shots — until such time as we can know what's a good drone and what's a bad drone — our policy right now is no drones."
CONTROLLING HUGE, HISTORIC CROWDS
"As I look at the pictures taken after each Series, there had to be hundreds of thousands of fans outside of each facility. From a personal perspective, I had an occasion where a staff member had a medical issue and it required an ambulance to come outside the gate at Wrigley Field during Game 5. Realistically, I was thinking, 'How are we ever going to get out of here with the flow of people around the gates?' But the police had mounted horses that were able to part the crowds and people were by and large cooperative — nobody wants to step in the way of a 1,200-pound horse.
"When it appeared that if the Cubs were going to clinch it, it would be on the road, I would be lying if I said I didn't heave a sigh of relief. Nonetheless, people gathered outside Wrigley. Even at Progressive Field, there were probably 12,000 to 15,000 Cubs fans. It was a happy crowd, and obviously one in which nonviolent celebrating took place. Hats off to the Chicago Police Department. It was about the game, and not a security incident. We had 90-year-old people crying because their dream had come true."
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Gameday Security with the title "Cubs’ World Series win: A euphoric and historic event"