Jazz President: New Arena Ranks as NBA's 2nd-Most Secure

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)


SALT LAKE CITY - Rodney Hood feels safe playing basketball in front of thousands of people. He really does. The Utah Jazz player is even quick to express gratitude that the NBA and his team take all sorts of precautionary measures to make safety a priority.

Even so, Hood isn't afraid to admit he sometimes worries about scary what-if scenarios.

Sunday's horrific massacre in Las Vegas, which breaks his heart, brought the arena security issue and the possibility of being a target in a large crowd to his mind once again.

"I think the NBA does a great job, but, man, I think about it all the time," Hood said after the Jazz played the Sydney Kings in an international exhibition game Monday night at Vivint Arena. "I'm nervous every time I walk out there."

It's been that way for the soon-to-be 25-year-old ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which taught the Mississippi native a sad life lesson as a young boy: "Anything can happen at any given time."

Jazz management is well aware of that unfortunate fact. As such, the organization has gone to great lengths to make its arena a safe haven.

"It's just our responsibility to take every step we can to do our best to ensure the safety of our guests," Jazz president Steve Starks said, "and, as much as anything, to create preventative measures to anybody wanting to do something harmful."

The recent renovation provided a prime opportunity for major security system upgrades. Starks says the NBA now ranks Vivint Arena as the second-most secure building in the Association.

Security enhancements include:

* Bollards (rigid posts) installed around the entire perimeter of The Viv plaza, preventing unauthorized vehicles from approaching the property and building.

* An extensive camera system that allows security to monitor activity everywhere on the plaza, on the concourses and in the arena. Enough high-tech cameras were installed to give visual access to every seat and fan in the arena bowl 100 percent of the time.

* Access control systems and card readers throughout the building, ensuring that only authorized personnel can enter designated areas.

* A social media monitoring system that will alert security of potential threats.

* A robust command center to oversee physical and social media activity.

* Increased security on the first level for athletes, coaches and other guests who work or visit that area.

* Bomb-sniffing dogs to inspect every car in the back parking lot. (The dogs have been conducting pre-event building checks for years.) On top of that, the organization is in the process of purchasing an advanced video system that will inspect the undercarriage of all vehicles that enter the back lot.

* The arena was already equipped with sensitive magnetometers that every patron and participant must go through upon entry for events.

The improvements, among other factors, led to Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment vice president of security and risk management Lance Davenport recently being named the NBA security professional of the year.

"It's a big deal for us," said Steve Smith, LHMSE vice president of public safety, who reports to Davenport.

This will be an ongoing challenge for the Jazz and the NBA. They try to learn from each terrorist attack at home and abroad. For Monday's game, the Jazz made it so security officers were more visible than usual in the aftermath of the Las Vegas tragedy. Because of the Manchester Arena bombing, Vivint Arena security now takes extra precautions to make certain that nobody re-enters the building after leaving.

"It's never one of those things that you feel like you can check the box and you can move on," Starks said. "We're always stress-testing. We're always looking for vulnerabilities. We're testing the fences, so to speak. That's healthy because it keeps these guys (arena security) on their toes, and we just learn some things, too."

The Jazz also hope that fans will alert them of any suspicious or dangerous activity. Those attending events and games will see messages that include numbers to inform security of any potential issues.

"If you see something, say something," Larry H. Miller Group of Companies vice president of communications Frank Zang said. "Because it takes all of us to help in creating the most safe environment possible."

The Jazz held a moment of silence before Monday's preseason-opening game as a tribute to Sunday's victims. Hood said his "best wishes go out to the people of Las Vegas."

That moment of reflection touched Jazz fans Brittney and Chad Colby. While en route to the arena, the couple had a conversation about what they'd do if a mass shooting happened at an event they were attending.

They felt perfectly safe at the Jazz game, though.

"But," Brittney said, "we never thought that something like that would happen here."

"I didn't really feel apprehensive to come," Chad said, "and maybe that's just me being oblivious living in Utah. I don't know. I've never felt not safe coming to a Jazz game."

Neither has Jazz fan Curtis Kirk.

"I have no concerns coming out," he said. "We live in a pretty safe society. I think it's as safe as it can be."

That's the Jazz's mission.

Things have drastically changed in the 26 years since the building was erected, Starks pointed out, so it's up to the organization to stay on top of evolving risks.

"You can never guarantee that nothing is going to happen," Starks said. "You can just mitigate risk and make sure you've done everything you can to not allow obvious things to slip through the cracks."

Hood appreciates that.

The beefed-up security - which also includes a security detail that travels with the team - provides an added level of comfort.

"It's great to have that around us," Hood said. "We appreciate it. It makes us relax and we can focus on the game."

email: jody@deseretnews.com

twitter: DJJazzyJody

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