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Tuesday Takedown: Talking Sports Safety at NCS4

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I had the pleasure to travel down beautifully boring I-65 to Indianapolis last week for the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security's annual conference, where the superheroes of the sports security world gathered to address the constantly evolving challenge of protecting its venues, athletes and spectators from new and old threats alike. Outside of the Athletic Business Conference & Expo, there is no other conference I look forward to attending more, and this year's show did not disappoint. 

Shortly after arriving at the JW Marriott, I made my way to the JW Grand Ballroom for the First Intercollegiate Athletic Best Practices Symposium, which I described in last week's TT. After completing my blog, I ventured across the street to Victory Field to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA team, the Indianapolis Indians, take on the Philadelphia Phillies' AAA team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Apparently many NCS4 attendees had the same idea I did as many were spread out around the stadium. Only a few seats down from me was Menomonee Falls (Wis.) High School athletic and activities director Ryan Anderson, the man largely responsible for Menomonee Falls becoming the first high school in the U.S. to utilize SportEvac evacuation software from InControl Simulation Solutions.

RELATED: Inside the 2014 NCS4 Conference

The following day, the Athletic Business team united in the exhibit hall to meet with the many leading manufacturers serving this space, including Guardian 8 and Rapiscan. Make sure you check out ABtv in the near future to learn more about how Guardian 8 and Rapiscan are impacting safety and security at stadiums and arenas. Afternoon breakout sessions followed, starting with a session analyzing the behavioral issues at collegiate sporting events, followed by a great session on emergency management for interscholastic athletics moderated by Anderson, and assisted by Safe Sport Zone president Jay Hammes. The day concluded with a welcome reception at the NCAA Hall of Champions, where I discovered my jump shot still needs work and my "fastball" is fast in name only.

Boston Police Department commissioner William Evans returned to deliver the keynote address the following morning on how the security game has changed since the Boston bombings, giving attendees an inside look at everything BPD and the Boston Athletic Association did to keep its record number of participants and spectators safe. Following an awards luncheon that recognized top sports facilities and top security professionals, it was off to what was ultimately one of the best presentations I attended at NCS4: "Preventing Fan Violence" by Dr. Tamara Madensen from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The entertaining and highly informative session examined the problem of fan violence, challenges to effective crowd management and methods of violence protection.

Following Dr. Madensen's session, I sat in on a session involving the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium, Levi's Stadium. When it opens next month, it will be the most technologically advanced stadium in the country. Costing $1.2 billion to construct, the facility is the first stadium to achieve LEED Gold certification, has the largest video boards for any outdoor stadium, will have more than 600 cameras and is built to withstand a Level 4 earthquake. Other interesting facts: Levi's Stadium has the most live fire kitchens and pizza ovens than any stadium in the world, and a stadium-specific app will allow visitors to purchase food and beverage, tickets, parking passes, and provides real-time information regarding best traffic routes, concessions stand lines, as well as game highlights.

My NCS4 concluded with a tour of Lucas Oil Stadium that night. While I thoroughly enjoyed walking on the field, touring the locker room (and seeing the locker that will always belong to Peyton), the highlight was sitting in the press box to discuss an emerging threat in the world of sports safety: unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones. Security leaders from the Indianapolis Colts, as well as attendees on the tour, admitted that this is an area that is evolving, and there is no set protocol yet in terms of how to deal with this type of scenario. But the FAA and security leaders across the country are moving as fast as NCS4 attendees grabbing the inaugural issue of Sports Venue Safety to get rules and guidelines in place. This will no doubt be a major topic of discussion at NCS4's conference next year.

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