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Case study

Sports venue hits "Home Run" with updated video system from Vicon

Detroit stadium used the latest video technology from Vicon Industries to make sure this year's All-Star Game went off without a hitch.

At this year's All-Star Game, held in Detroit, security ran exceptionally smooth, thanks in part to updated video equipment from Vicon Industries Inc.

Comerica Park security is handled through Detroit Tigers, Inc (DTI), a division of Ilitch Holdings Inc. (IHI), the company that manages several sports team's venues, as well as some theatres and a food distribution service.  At all of these venues, the CCTV manufacturer of choice is Vicon.

"I've been working with the organisation for 15 years," says Tim Sopha, Director of Corporate Security and Safety at Olympia Entertainment (a division of IHI).  "I've been using some type of Vicon product almost as long as I've been here."

So when Rick Fenton, VP of Corporate Security & Parking at Olympia, learned that they would be host to the 2005 All-Star Baseball Game, he turned to Vicon for the video components.  Vicon collaborated with one of its Authorized Dealers, TTI, to deliver the latest security solutions for the big game.  TTI has been involved with numerous security projects for Olympia Entertainment and had success working with Vicon in the past. Both Vicon and TTI teamed up to hit a home run at this year's All Star Game.

Olympia was already using Vicon's 1st generation Kollector DVRs, installed when they first came out five or six years ago.  But fast growth in their sister company, Blue Line Food Distribution (another division of IHI), had prompted them to move into larger centres, installing the latest security as they did so.  Sopha also had installed one of Vicon's Kollector Elite DVRs at Comerica Park, where the game would be held.  But he knew that this, plus the two older DVRs, would not be enough.

"We have a great relationship with Vicon, and I told them what we were doing and asked if they wanted to participate," Sopha says.  "They stepped up to the plate and made it work."

Vicon loaned Olympia Entertainment three new Kollector Pro DVRs - the latest generation.  They were used for the game and the preparation leading up to it.  Due to the success of the All Star Game, Comerica Park has purchased three Kollectors to replace the three that are on loan from Vicon.

Disaster Drill

The 2005-2006 sports season is a big one for the city of Detroit.  Not only were they hosts this summer to the All-Star Game, but they will be hosting next year's Super Bowl.  To help prepare for these two big events, the city held a mock disaster drill - an exercise in which TTI was heavily involved along with Rick Fenton from Olympia (Division of IHI).  Rick played a major role in the planning and implementation of the disaster drill as well as the security plan for the All Star Game.  Almost all of their sporting venues were used in the exercise, and the video technology played a key role.

The drill consisted of morning "table top" sessions, and three different mock "disasters" in the afternoon - all held at IHI properties.  There was a bus bomb outside of the Fox Theater and office tower (where Olympia's corporate headquarters is located), a biological explosion inside Comerica Park itself, and a chemical explosion in the parking lot.

"These ‘disasters' happened and we used the Digital Video Systems in our venues," Sopha says.  "We brought back the images to the command centre set up for this exercise."

"When you bring that many people into an area and you need to respond in a timely manner, you can't practice enough.  The big thing in those types of events is communications between agencies. I believe every agency got something out of [the exercise].  It definitely prepared people for the All-Star Game."

The Big Game

After going through the mock exercise, it was time for the real deal.  The All-Star Game was held July 12th at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Ten days prior to the event, Olympia set up a special command centre at Comerica Park.  There were a total of seven Kollector DVRs at three different venues - Fox, Comerica Park and the Tiger parking garage - with over 100 cameras and 13 possible viewing stations.

"In that command centre we had the Detroit police, and tables for the Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement and Emergency Management Agencies" Sopha explains.  "There were 14 tables with about 10-12 agencies altogether.  We set up four camera viewing stations at the front of the room using the Vicon equipment.  We got some large screens and projected it so people could see throughout the room."

One of the four viewing stations was dedicated to U.S. Customs.  "There was a security zone around the ball park, and as it got closer to the event, the area was closed down and secured," Sopha explains.  "Deliveries would go through Customs' screening.  After the vehicles completed the screening process, they would remain under video surveillance until they departed the security zone."

Because of Customs' special needs, Olympia not only gave them a dedicated station, they also gave them the software and ability to move the cameras themselves using presets.  In addition to the command centre itself, Olympia also loaded ViconNet software in the Federal Building (FBI headquarters) as well as ATF headquarters and Detroit Emergency Management.

"We provided them software and the means to transmit those digital signals," Sopha says.  "Our IT people allowed them into our network.  It worked out very well."

Smooth Operation

Sopha reports that the whole security operation went extremely well, "The set up of the video system, to the physical security, to the excellent cooperation from all of the public safety agencies was excellent.  We had very few problems - less than at a normal ball game.  We had no major incidents for an event of that size.  It went off without a hitch."

"This was in no small part thanks to the newer Vicon equipment.  While it would have been possible to do the same type of security set-up with the older units, it would have been much more challenging," he says.

"The new Kollectors have larger hard drive space and more frames per second.  It allows us to work better on the network and is much more user friendly.  It is also a lot easier to search for images going back and looking into the archives."

The updated software also allowed easy sharing between the three outside agencies (FBI, ATF, Detroit EM) that needed to view the video. It was just as easy to take down the process.  The next morning we simply shut the access off to those outside agencies.  We will most likely grant the same access for the Super Bowl.

"The city of Detroit is looking at putting more cameras up around the city for their police officers.  We could potentially share video with them and vice versa."

Moving forward, Sopha plans to install more Vicon Kollector Pros in all their venues, eventually phasing out the older versions entirely.  The preventative security measures proved to be a success.

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