Closer Scrutiny

Normally, when the University of Michigan Wolverines have a football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, some 110,000 pack the facility.

All those fans still fill the stadium to cheer for the maize and blue, but how they get to their seats and what they can bring with them has changed in the last three months. The fans have to undergo more stringent security procedures as they enter the stadium, and many of the accoutrements that traditionally have accompanied them must be left in the car or at home.

What is considered normal security has changed drastically at Michigan Stadium and at hundreds of campuses across the country. Since September 11, when terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, schools have recognized that the level of security they had been providing at large public events no longer is adequate.

“The way we look at things has changed — forever, I think,” says Gordon Hoffman, a captain with the Texas Tech University police department in Lubbock.

Minimizing risk

Since September 11, security officials have had to take a different view of the large crowds that typically fill campus stadiums on Saturday afternoons in the fall. What before was merely a large, boisterous collection of fans and alumni now has to be seen as a potential target for a terrorist attack. That was especially the case in Ann Arbor, where Michigan Stadium is the largest college-owned football facility in the United States.

At the University of Michigan, authorities historically have prohibited fans from bringing certain items into the stadium, says Diane Brown, senior information coordinator with the university's facilities and operations department. In some cases — seat backs and umbrellas, for instance — the rationale for the restrictions was not necessarily security but fan comfort.

But after the terrorist attacks, stadium security became the foremost priority. For the September 29 game against the University of Illinois, Michigan officials banned backpacks and large bags, and all other items carried into the stadium were inspected.

As the season progressed, the university became convinced that even more stringent measures would be put into place to make fans feel safer at the stadium.

“We have ratcheted up things a bit,” says Brown. “We are prohibiting bags of all sizes — no diaper bags, fanny packs, purses. This will allow us to increase the number of officers that are available for crowd control.”

Those restrictions also are in effect for basketball games at Crisler Arena and hockey games at Yost Ice Arena.

Brown declined to spell out all the steps that have been taken to bolster security for football games, but among the changes are more security personnel on duty, cement bollards that have been installed near stadium entrances to prevent someone from trying to drive a vehicle through the gates, and the presence during the game of a fire truck immediately outside the stadium.

Those attending the games are warned to arrive at the stadium earlier so that thousands of people aren't trying to enter the facility at the same time.

Even at smaller events on the University of Michigan campus, such as concerts or lectures, police are out in greater force.

“We've seen an increase in requests for security staffing at campus events,” says Brown.

A greater presence

At Texas Tech football games, authorities have prohibited many of the same items as Michigan, but do not have a total ban on bags. All containers and bags are subject to inspection; those who refuse to have their items inspected will not be admitted to the stadium. Most fans are aware of and support the new restrictions.

“There are a few that haven't gotten the word and are disgruntled,” says Hoffman. “But not too many.”

Texas Tech also has additional security officers to patrol at games, including off-duty Lubbock police officers. “We have a little more presence so the people at the games feel protected.”

Police are using search dogs to make sure areas are safe and are being more stringent about checking the credentials of people allowed onto the field or other areas where access is limited.

“We are using everything at our disposal,” says Hoffman.

The University of Tennessee, another school with a stadium capacity that exceeds 100,000, also has intensified its security patrols. Like other schools, it has banned backpacks and larger purses at its facility, Neyland Stadium. The night before a game, police officers search the stadium and protect rooms that have been deemed safe with security tape, says Officer Vince Busico. If officers discover that the tape seal has been broken, they search the room again.

Before September 11, a campus police officer was stationed in the stadium the night before a game to make sure no one sneaked into the facility. Now, Busico says, an officer is patrolling overnight inside the stadium at least two nights before a game.

The police have mirrors available to check the undersides of cars that enter the parking lot. About 30 minutes before a game begins, the university uses a convoy of buses to block all the roads to the stadium. Similar restrictions are being used at the basketball arena as the season begins.

Authorities say that although the new restrictions may seem out of the ordinary at first, the more stringent security measures probably will be part of a new, post-September 11 definition of normal.

“We're going to continue to do it each game,” says Busico.

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected]. Architect for the Birdville Complex (pictured on p. 48) is SHW Group, Inc. Architect for the University of Houston (left) is HOK Sports Facilities Group.

QUOTABLE

Bill Bess
Director of the Department of Public Safety, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“During this time of heightened security awareness throughout our country, we must do everything we can to assist our community. By prohibiting certain items from access to our larger sporting venues, our officers can concentrate their efforts on other security efforts.”

Gordon Hoffman
Police Captain, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

“We all understand that times have changed. We just have to adapt to what has happened. We are using everything at our disposal.”

Vince Busico
Police Officer, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“People have been receptive to the steps we've taken. They understand what we're doing, and they thank us for helping to keep them safe.”

Rick Tipton
Sergeant, Department of Public Safety, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

“We've always been pretty vigilant about security. We've had everything from visits by (Mikhail) Gorbachev to visits from the Queen of England. For our department, it's pretty much business as usual.”

Don't bring it

Here are the items that spectators cannot bring to Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena or Yost Ice Arena for football, basketball or hockey games at the University of Michigan:

  • Bags of any size — including purses, fanny packs, backpacks, binocular cases, camera bags, diaper bags.

  • Containers of any kind, including aerosol and spray cans.

  • Alcoholic beverages.

  • Coolers, thermoses, cups, bottles, cans, flasks.

  • Food of any kind.

  • Camcorders and tripods.

  • Umbrellas and seat backs.

  • Flags and flagpoles.

  • Strollers.

  • Weapons.

Fans still are allowed to bring non-pocket, non-zip seat cushions; binoculars without a case; pagers and cell phones; clear, sealed water bottles; and small cameras and radios.

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