While Dallas citizens may cherish their frontier heritage, there is no denying that the city is now an urban center. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is home to 6.3 million people, 25 Fortune 500 companies, five professional sports teams, and a world-class arts and entertainment district. Protecting all of this is a serious challenge for law enforcement and private industry. Security professionals who attend the ASIS International 56th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Dallas later this month can see for themselves how the city and businesses address the risks they face. Meanwhile, the following four case studies illustrate how local groups have structured their security programs to meet specific needs.
Those designing Cowboys Stadium took the motto “everything is bigger in Texas” to heart. At 3 million square feet, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, located in Arlington, Texas, is the largest domed stadium in the world, with a maximum capacity for 110,000 people, larger than any other National Football League (NFL) venue. In addition to its retractable roof, which is also the world’s largest, the stadium has the largest retractable end zone doors, measuring 120 by 180 feet.
The stadium boasts the largest high-definition video screen in the world as well—it is even certified by the Guinness World Records. The screen hangs 90 feet above the ground and spans the football field from one 20 yard line to the other. To put that in perspective, when basketball games are played at the stadium, the video screen is larger than the court.
With a price tag of $1.3 billion, the stadium is also one of the most expensive sports venues ever constructed. Naturally, with such impressive features and such a large price tag, protecting the stadium was top of mind. Consequently, security was a major factor in the design and construction of the facility.
Included in the design were a host of protection elements ranging from physical security barriers at the perimeter to surveillance cameras throughout.
There are 263 CCTV cameras, both analog and digital, and more than 600 access control points. The camera feeds are recorded and also monitored live from an on-site control room. (A second on-site control room is used solely to monitor traffic conditions around the stadium.) The primary control room is staffed by security officers as well as two officers from the Arlington Police Department who monitor texts and e-mails from fans.
This fan-based security initiative is used most often during football games and was suggested by the NFL. “We run a public service announcement during the game,” says Jack Hill, stadium general manager. “We ask people to text or e-mail if they are sitting in a section with unruly fans.... [P]eople do use it on occasion.”
Up to 240 contract security officers and 160 police officers patrol the venue, including the five levels of private suites. The stadium has a detention center with four cells. An Arlington police officer is on-site at the jail during large events. The detention facility was designed with input from the police and contains a gun locker and a room for SWAT gear.
The stadium held its first event, a George Strait concert, in May 2009. In its first year of operation, the venue hosted 11 NFL games, 4 college football games, 16 high school football games, and dozens of other sporting events, corporate meetings, and concerts such as U2 and the Jonas Brothers.
Approximately four people are jailed per event, mostly for alcohol-related offenses, according to Jim Hydrick, operations and security manager at the stadium. “The only exception to that trend was the Jonas Brothers concert,” he notes. “The jail was empty that night.”
While specific security procedures may be requested for a concert or corporate event, all the stops are pulled out on NFL game day. Security uses NFL best practices and the features built into the building to ensure the safest environment possible.
Team buses are swept by police and searched using explosives detection dogs before they are driven up to the stadium through a gated entrance. Most fans park outside the blast resistant bollards and stone wall that sit 100 feet from the stadium. Then, they walk through screening points to enter the venue.
To control access to the inside of the stadium, there is a single entry point that delivery personnel and VIPs use. The entry point is protected by police officers and six explosives detection dogs who sweep every vehicle that comes into the stadium.
After clearing the check point, vehicles proceed down a tunnel into the building. Anyone delivering goods then goes to the various loading docks. VIPs—those who purchase access to one of 31 private suites—park in assigned spaces.
“The tunnel from that entrance, down into the stadium is the most vulnerable spot,” says Hydrick. A further layer of protection is added by a hydraulic barricade in the tunnel that can be raised and lowered by the police officers to stop suspect vehicles.
Police can also seal the tunnel from the outside by lowering louvers over the entrance. Once the game is underway, no delivery vehicles are allowed; police keep the barricade raised, lowering it only to allow cleared VIPs to enter.
These rules apply to everyone. “Even [team owner] Jerry Jones has his car swept by bomb dogs,” Hydrick says.
Because such high-profile officials attend games, Hill must work closely with law enforcement, NFL security representatives, the U.S. Secret Service, and the FBI. “When [former] President George W. Bush attends games, the FBI is always in attendance as well,” says Hill.
One approaching event weighs heavily on the minds of stadium personnel despite their experience securing the venue for the many NFL games that have already been held there. Cowboys Stadium will host Super Bowl XLV in February 2011. The security preparations began more than a year ago and will continue up to the event’s kick-off.
In preparation, Hill, along with key security personnel, meet with NFL representatives on a monthly basis. “The NFL has a full security plan,” notes Hill. “It’s just a matter of taking that plan and adapting it to our facility.”
For example, though the stadium conducts preemployment background screening on employees, the NFL will conduct a second check. In addition, some security features will be tightened, and some will be altered. There will be no parking within 300 feet of the building, meaning that the parking lots at the stadium will be closed. Fans will be shuttled in from distant parking areas, and VIPs will be flown in by helicopter.
Despite the challenges, Hill is confident that the stadium can meet all of the NFL’s requirements. “These are just certain initiatives that are specific to securing the Super Bowl,” he says. “Nothing that we’re hearing is unreasonable. We’ll be ready.”