Recently, representatives from Baylor University talked with Athletic Business Magazine about how real-time video surveillance has helped to ensure a great game-day experience for Big 12 football fans at Baylor’s all-new McLane Stadium. I invite you to read the full text of the resulting article below:
When the Baylor University Bears kicked off against SMU on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2014, they did more than kick off another winning Big 12 football season. They were also playing their first on-campus football game since 1935, held in the new, built-from-scratch McLane Stadium.
“Baylor University was one of the few institutions that did not have an on campus football arena,” explained Bob Hartland, Director of IT Servers and Networking Services. “One of the driving factors behind our new stadium was to take the excitement that had grown around the football program’s success and bring it back to campus, putting the game-day festivities within walking distance of the students.”
One of only a handful of all-new college football stadiums built over the last dozen years, McLane Stadium brings the college football experience into the 21st century. For example, the stadium is blanketed with 330 Wi-Fi antennas and an AT&T-powered distributed antenna system (DAS) to give fans optimal Internet access and cell phone reception from any point in the stadium. The goal is to ensure a great game-day experience for all fans.
A key part of delivering that experience is a video surveillance system. Baylor University had recently standardized video security across the entire campus and, using NiceVision, now manages all the video cameras in the network through one central system. It was a simple matter to extend NiceVision to include video surveillance for the new stadium.
Baylor’s Department of Public Safety and Department of Information Technology worked closely together to ensure the successful implementation of the stadium’s video surveillance. More than 120 high-definition cameras provide coverage of the stadium seating, concourses, parking areas, pedestrian bridge from campus, and even the boat docks on the Brazos River. These cameras can all be managed from a command post within the stadium itself.
With more than 45,000 people descending on the campus on game day, Baylor faced two big challenges to keeping fans safe and secure. First, it was essential to have a comprehensive plan for getting people into the stadium and then ensure that the plan was being properly executed. Second, Baylor had to be ready to respond to unforeseen events.
“Our experience shows that video can play a critical role in both areas,” said Brad Wigtil, Chief of Police of Baylor Police Department.
Because of what Wigtil can see while monitoring the live video feed, he might change the direction of traffic flow or move additional resources to a particularly troublesome intersection. “I can look at the video and make sure that the officers working an intersection are in the correct places at the correct times, properly moving the traffic. The NiceVision system is indispensable in tracking how our mobility plan is working.”
“Video can also help with managing unforeseen events,” continued Wigtil. Regardless of how many staff are in the stadium, there will be incidents where there are no security or law enforcement officers in the immediate area. “Even before officers or EMS crews arrive at an incident, we can use the real-time video to see what’s going on and be coaching them with the information we’re seeing.”
Just before one of the first games in the new stadium, a thunderstorm rolled through the area. Baylor had a plan for sheltering in place for thunderstorms, and the cameras enabled Wigtil’s team to check the stadium’s tailgating and concourse areas to see if any intervention was needed.
“In the old stadium,” said Wigtil, “we wouldn’t have been able to monitor what was going on in the concourses at all. Even dispatching an officer in person was difficult. The conditions were often very crowded, so an incident might be long over before an officer was able to make way through the crowd.”
The new on-campus stadium, supported by a real-time video surveillance system that helps keep things running smoothly, is a big hit. “People are in awe of the stadium,” concluded Hartland. “People are also pleased that we have a winning football program at this point in time, so I think they’re just enveloped in the experience right now. That puts more of a burden on us to keep their experience strong if we lose a game. But, from the security perspective, it’s sometimes just as much of an issue to deal with a happy fan as it is a sad one. NiceVision keeps things safe and secure, no matter what.”
Baylor University offers this advice to other institutions looking to leverage an advanced video surveillance system like NiceVision for game day security.
Realize it is a team effort. “This has been a collaborative effort between the Departments of Public Safety and IT from the start,” said Mark Childers, Associate Vice President of Baylor University’s Department of Public Safety.
The video cameras are simply a tool. “It’s a combination of the human element on the ground, in addition to the video technology,” continued Childers. “The two together are what make an effective security platform, not any one thing alone.”
Get involved early, and stay involved. “I would encourage my law enforcement colleagues to get involved very early in the design process for such facilities, and stay involved,” said Wigtil. “We had a couple bumps in the road during the construction phase, and if we hadn’t stayed involved, we might not have gotten what we really wanted.”
Remain diligent on the specifications. “Very small changes in the capabilities of these cameras and their layout in the facility will have a huge impact on the end result,” commented Jon Allen, Chief Information Security Officer for Baylor. “Embed yourself in the process and realize that, even though there are consultants and contractors, you’re really the one responsible for the end product.”
Fight to make security a priority. “I don’t think security was given as much emphasis in the original architectural plans as we had hoped,” commented Hartland. “The architects seemed to understand traditional needs, such as lighting and speakers, but they seemed surprised at some of the technological needs of a stadium.”
Get it right before the concrete is poured. “You’ve got to get it all straightened out before cement is poured, because it’s so much more difficult to deal with it after the fact than it is on the front end,” said Hartland.
It’s a journey. “We perform a little bit better with each game,” concluded Hartland. “But it’s nice to feel like you have the tools to be able to do something.”
This article was republished with the permission of Athletic Business.