In 2001 when four planes were hijacked by terrorists it changed the way security measures were looked at in the United States and around the World. It took quite a long time for people to feel safe in their own country again, especially at sporting events or places where a large number of individuals were gathered. Security measures were re-evaluated at all stadiums and many changes were implemented. Since then there have not been any attacks to major sporting events in the United States until last month when two brothers brought home made pressure cooker bombs which exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosion killed 3 spectators and injured 264 other innocent people. After an intense manhunt, one brother was killed and the other was found by police. This was the worst attack on a sporting event since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing which killed two people.
In light of this attack, all sport facilities have reviewed their policies and procedures to make sure they are still being followed and are up to par. Major League Baseball stadium operation officials all flew out to New York City the week after the attacks to discuss potential changes in the way security procedures are handled at all 30 MLB stadiums. MLB said they had planned a meeting with all stadium operations managers prior to the bombings and that the meeting was not a direct result of the bombings. In an interview with ESPN on April 23rd, MLB spokesman Michael Teevan commented on the meetings. “This stadium operations meeting scheduled for later this week was not a product of the incidents in Boston,” Teevan said. “It is a part of our ongoing efforts to discuss state-of-the-art security measures with the clubs, and it’s standard operating procedure.”
Earlier today I had the privilege to speak with the VP of Stadium Operations for the San Diego Padres, Mark Guglielmo. He could not talk about any details that were discussed at the meetings in New York but he did give some input on his feelings towards ballpark security. He felt that moving forward when these types of incidents occur its best to review procedures and practices and make sure that all people related to putting on events follow those procedures that are in place. “As these types of events increase, security measures are escalated as well” Guglielmo stated. He also discussed the role that federal, regional, and local law enforcement agencies play in ensuring a safe environment for fans, staff, and players at sporting events. “They provide great intelligence and assist in the planning and preparing of potential threats.” He was able to say that he would not be surprised if MLB made a recommendation to adopt increased security measures at MLB stadiums which may include mandatory wanding of guests as they enter the stadium. Guglielmo said, “MLB is looking at ways to screen fans in the most expeditious way possible while remaining diligent with security protocol.”
In addition to talking with Mark Guglielmo, I was also able to speak with Ken Kawachi the Director of Event Operations at Petco Park. He discussed more of the human element of how security is managed at a stadium. All it takes is for one security guard to be having a bad day or to lose focus and someone can come into a secured area or bring something in they are not supposed to. Training staff to look for suspicious items and articles which is key to the prevention of disasters. USA Today had a great article written a few weeks ago about stadium security. It went into depth about how many stadiums and entertainment venues put on a “security theater”. The venue makes it look like there is enhanced security in place but in reality fans and guests are still “relying on low-paid, part-time security guards with spotty training and even criminal convictions”. “Security in the United States is all about bells and whistles,” says Rafi Sela, a former official with the Israel Defense Forces. “You see the guards standing at stadiums and bus stations. It’s not even considerable deterrence anymore.”
This so called “stadium theater” was proven at the Super Bowl this past February. Two students from Savannah State University snuck into the one of the highest guarded sporting events in the World. A video which they posted online shows them walking by numerous security guards and eventually gaining entry into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This proves that even with the highest level of security that without the proper security personnel any terrorist attack is possible.
Since the attacks, security at Citi Field in New York has seemingly increased. According to an ESPN article a fan came into the stadium with a standard-sized backpack and got a thorough examination at the gate. The fan stated that security personnel went through everything, including his wallet. I could not find any further information regarding if Citi Field had changed their policies, however in light of the Boston bombings everyone is on edge. Security at Petco Park in San Diego has remained the same and I have not noticed any through screening similar to the fans account at Citi Field.
In my opinion, MLB needs to step up their security measures and each club needs to review in detail their best practices in order to prevent a potential attack. Security personnel need to be properly trained and fans and guests should feel safe entering a stadium or venue. Terrorism is everyone’s problem. The motto goes, “if you see something, say something”. Will a terrorist or extremest attempt to blow up another sporting event or plan an attack on a Major League Baseball stadium? Who knows, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and take as many preventative measures as possible.
- MLB likely to discuss security after bombings (kansascity.com)