When Duke football fans come to a modernized Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium in a few weeks, they will have no trouble appreciating the hard work that went into the venue’s multi-year renovation process.
But what those fans may not know is the effort given to the award-winning plan aimed at keeping them safe.
Duke’s game day safety protocol earned Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium a 2017 Facility of Merit by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4). It was one of 10 facilities to earn the honor over the summer and one of three college football venues to be singled out.
“Just like there have been significant upgrades in facilities, there have been significant upgrades made to ensure that the safety and security procedures we are following are the best practices for athletic event and crowd management,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke’s Vice President of Administration and emergency coordinator.
This award recognizes a facility that has performed above and beyond normal operations to demonstrate an innovative approach to enhancing safety and security. The chosen facility may also have resolved a significant safety/security issue or incident.
When the new security protocol first went into effect last season, among the noticeable changes were the use of metal detectors, a no-bag policy and no re-entry rule. There was also more security personnel and new permanent in-stadium medical facilities.
Bob Weiseman, associate athletics director for facilities, game operations and championships, said the groundwork for Duke’s game day safety and security plan was being developed well before ground was broken on the stadium renovation in late 2014.
The plan – and the execution of it – is the result of a collaborative effort involving Duke Athletics, Duke Police, Duke Facilities Management, Duke Emergency Management, Duke Disability Management System, Duke Office of Information Technology, Durham Police, and a handful of campus groups and outside contractors.
The improvements mirror those at professional sports venues, which is by design.
“A lot of it was looking at what other venues do, not just collegiate venues, and taking things from that,” said Becca Wilusz, associate director of Game Operations and Championships “It was basically figuring out the best practices in the industry, what those standards are, and then thinking how we can scale those and make it work for our stadium.”
The protocol continues to evolve. Last season saw the debut of ticket scanning technology that allowed data to be kept on when and where fans entered the stadium. With that in hand, Weiseman, Wilusz and their team were able to make small tweaks, such as shifting more resources to certain gates and allowing slightly less time between the opening the stadium and kickoff.
While the improvements to the Blue Devils’ home field continue to get attention, Weiseman said he’s run into a few fans who have taken notice of his team’s work, too.
“We heard a lot when we were planning that people are going to have more fun and enjoy themselves more if they feel safe.’” Weiseman said. “We’re actually hearing that from people. … We’re hearing our fans say they can relax and enjoy themselves because they feel safe.”