Weapons detection system improves fan experience at Ohio football stadium

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jun 29, 2022

The fan experience when entering Lower.com Field is seamless and welcoming thanks to a new concealed weapons detection system.

Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio deployed Evolv Express weapons detection technology to streamline the fan entry route and improve stadium security.

Just a few years ago, the future of Major League Soccer (MLS) club Columbus (Ohio) Crew looked bleak. The team owner wanted to move the club to Texas. However, a group of passionate fans formed #SavetheCrew and fought to keep the club in Columbus – and won.

Along with an outpouring of support from state and local politicians, a change in ownership – led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam – brought new ideas and new investments in late 2018. The Haslam and Johnson families are associated with the family of longtime team physician Dr. Pete. Edwards and local ownership helped give the crew a new outlook.

Thirteen acres in the Astor Park neighborhood of downtown Columbus have been set aside for a $313.8 million stadium with a capacity of more than 20,000. The stadium is part of a larger mixed-use development project where Columbus residents can live, work and play. The groundbreaking for the new stadium was in 2019, and its inaugural game was on July 3, 2021, when the Crew took on the New England Revolution in front of a sold-out Lower.com Field.

From the beginning, team owners and the City of Columbus sought to design and build a state-of-the-art football stadium. Everything has been planned down to the smallest detail with constant attention for the fans. Josh Glessing, vice president of strategy at Haslam Sports Group (HSG), which manages various operational and administrative functions for Crew and Lower.com Field, led a team that focused on course mapping and fan experience to ensure world-class service and commitment.

HSG then used this assessment to evaluate different technologies and determine which processes needed to be linked to them to provide the best experience for fans. This research led to the creation of a fan experience based on technological innovation and a fully connected stadium ecosystem.

Improved fan entry experience with new weapon detection technology

The experience fans have when entering the stadium was targeted as an important differentiator. Lower.com Field is a multi-purpose stadium that hosts many events and contests that attract large audiences. The security/weapons screening process is one of the first points of contact with stadium patrons and as such it was essential to create an unprecedented entry route to keep fans coming back.

Unlike other larger, multi-purpose stadiums that attract large audiences, Lower.com Field’s use case has focused on MLS matches and a few other events. It was essential to create an unparalleled experience.

Evolv Express is a weapon detection solution that streamlines the fan entry experience, reduces false positives, and captures insights into entry data that can be used to improve safety and the fan experience.

The fan experience of entering Lower.com Field involves multiple technologies including facial recognition, ticketing and security systems including concealed weapons detection. The Columbus Crew Safety and Operations team were an equal partner at the table when it came to weighing options. In addition to other members of the Crew team, Meredith Ley, head of security and safety at the club, has been heavily involved.

“For security analysis [weapons detection], we looked at a number of different options and combinations,” she says. “At the historic Crew Stadium where we played before, we used traditional magnetometers – and the lines outside the stadium backed up at peak times. Removing them was one of the priorities we had set ourselves.

The combined HSG and Crew team provided a number of different solutions for the evaluation. They put them all through rigorous testing, from ease of deployment and management to effectiveness.

“It was a collaborative effort between many groups,” recalls Brandon Covert, vice president of IT at HSG.

“We looked at more than cost. All the different pieces had to fit together in the right way. With help from Evolv Technology, we’ve designed an entry experience at Lower.com Field that’s the best in pro sports.

The Evolv Express system was included in the Security Analysis and Weapons Detection Solutions evaluation.

“We threw a number of hidden weapons at different parts of the body, and it caught them every time,” Covert says. “This included non-traditional weapon technologies that are difficult to detect.”

End-to-end self-service security scanning

Providing an end-to-end fan self-service experience was central to what the HSG and Crew teams wanted.

“We looked at some of the later stadiums that had been built for professional sports teams in the United States, and they were still using handheld magnetometers and scanners,” Covert says. “We wanted everything to be self-service, from turnstiles to ticket scanning to security scanning. At the same time, they had to work together with each other. We even added facial recognition ticketing, which is far more advanced than mobile ticket scanning. »

Deploying the Evolv Express weapons detection systems has been a seamless process, according to Ley.

“We have three front doors,” she says. “We determined that the southeast gate near downtown would see the highest traffic volume.”

With 80% of fans expected to enter the stadium through this single door during a 20-minute window before kick-off, the challenge was daunting. In response, the Evolv Solutions engineering team worked with the HSG and Crew teams to configure and implement four dual-lane Express systems at the southeast gate where most fans enter the stadium, as well than a single lane system to the ADA entry ramp. .

“They worked with us to make sure they were placed in a position for optimal traffic flow,” adds Ley. “Each lane has a secondary lookup table.”

The Evolv Solutions engineer worked with his team to create a loopback to the secondary weapons check table to ensure that fans flagged for secondary checks do not clog traffic passing through Express systems. Ley was initially concerned about training staff at the third-party security company that runs the Express systems because it was new technology.

“It was a completely different approach to security,” she says. “But it turned out that I was worried for no reason. The Express systems are very user-friendly and the security team was able to learn how to use them quickly and easily. When a potential weapon is detected, an alert icon appears on the screen and indicates where the weapon was detected on the person’s body.This greatly streamlines secondary security screening.

When it was time for the opening event at Lower.com Field in July 2021, Evolv was on hand to help the security team with any issues and to coach them on any changes that needed to be made.

“Evolv’s service has been incredible,” says Ley. “The initial sales and onboarding experience has been exceptional, and the ongoing support has never wavered. Even when we run into a challenge on a game day on Saturday, the Evolv team is available within minutes. .

Going through security and ticketing for a better experience

With Evolv Express systems eliminating bottlenecks at stadium entrances, the HSG and Crew teams were able to reverse order, scanning tickets before high-volume gate security.

“This order reversal gives us an even better experience for fans,” observes Covert.

A key contributing factor is the accuracy of the Express weapons detection systems.

“For those of us who have used magnetometers, we are used to the constant beeping caused by metal keys and other objects – where the fan has to stop and empty his pockets and open his bags for a manual security check” , Covert said. . “It’s no more
the case with Express systems.

Leverage data analytics and AI to improve efficiency

Lower.com Field’s security and operations teams continually strive to improve operational efficiency, employee and fan experience. Evolv Insights analysis is an area that Ley finds particularly useful.

“We looked at the traffic flow around the southeast gate,” she says, “and found that the fans kept moving to the left, which pushed most of the traffic through a few systems. Express while letting almost no traffic pass through the far right one. The ticket scan, which we perform before the security scan at this gate, created bottlenecks before any traffic reached our Evolv systems. We took this information and concluded that we needed to reposition our ticket scanners so that all express lanes at this gate receive heavy traffic. We are very excited to leverage additional insights generated by Evolv Insights in the future to help us continue to deliver unparalleled fan entry experiences.

The team also leverages Cortex AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities that leverage insights into Evolv’s customer data.

“The fact that the system is constantly learning and improving in detected weapons by leveraging information from across the entire Evolv ecosystem is really exciting,” Covert notes. “Being able to distinguish between an umbrella and a gun or a glasses case and a gun improves our safety while making us more efficient. More importantly, it will make our entry experience even more seamless.

Technology enables self-service features for fans

The HSG and Crew teams were very confident in their selection of technologies for ventilator entry, including the Evolv Express systems.

“Our evaluation of solution options was very thorough and we put the Express systems at every rate imaginable,” says Ley.

The improved fan experience materialized with the opening of Lower.com Field, and the HSG and Crew teams observed fan reactions upon entering the stadium.

“Fans would go through the Express systems and raise their hands like they were going through TSA security

checkpoint,” says Covert. “They couldn’t believe the whole experience was completely self-serve. Having a great ownership group and the support of the local community makes all the difference when it comes to owning and using breakthrough technologies like those from Evolv. The Haslam and Edwards families wanted to create an unparalleled fan entry experience from the start, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with groundbreaking technologies like those from Evolv.

John Baier is Vice President of Professional Sports for Evolv.