EXCLUSIVE: Transforming the fan experience through venue security

Crowds at a stadium - venue security

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Venue security doesn’t have to impact the experience of guests, says John Baier, Vice President, Professional Sports and Entertainment at Evolv Technology.

Venue security

Venue security used to be an ‘either/or’ situation. Fans could either access venues quickly (when security measures were not in place) or safety precautions could impede expeditious entry. The safety measures available were limited, time-consuming and cumbersome.

Most often, patrons passed through metal detectors and were subject to manual wanding by security staff when benign items – like car keys, eyeglasses and loose change – triggered alarms. The unwieldy ingress process caused bottlenecks at entry points, creating an entirely different security threat.

Venues no longer have to sacrifice safety for speed. Technology has advanced to the point where fans can walk straight into a ballpark or arena – without always stopping or even slowing down – while still being screened.

Venues across the US, including Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Fenway Park in Boston and Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park, have harnessed the power of AI to improve ingress and fans now expect the same seamless entry at all facilities. It’s time to think of venue security as more than safety; it’s also a way to improve the guest experience.

Benefit of weapons detection

Individuals carry non-threatening metal items with them all the time, from cell phones to earphones. With metal detectors, it’s everyday items that prompt alarms that can slow down venue entry. What venue security teams want to – and should – look for are weapons or other items that pose a threat.

Beyond the ability to differentiate everyday items from guns, knives and other potentially threatening objects, weapons detection systems provide benefits for many aspects of venue operation:

  • Venue security officials can get fans inside safely and quickly, while deploying fewer staff at the gates
  • The revenue department can make decisions based on a more efficient use of resources. Weapons detection offers a maximum capacity operation that requires fewer people, which could mean a redeployment of manpower. Instead of positioning multiple people at ingress points, staff can be spread throughout the venue. That means a safer experience inside and a better guest experience overall
  • With more people inside the venue, stadium operations personnel can take over. The fans that are not waiting in a security line are now inside, consuming; this could be the sights and sounds of the ballpark, their favorite food and beverage offering or the latest team merchandise
  • Technology officials can analyze data and insights provided by the weapons detection system and think about next steps, such as integrating other smart technologies like facial authentication for ticketing

AI and machine learning

ChatGPT is receiving a lot of attention right now, but AI plays an important role in weapons detection as well. The best weapons detection technology learns as it works, continually recognizing what objects are threats and which ones aren’t. The more the technology learns, the quicker it can work.

Speed is as important now as ever. Consider Major League Baseball games, where rule changes have sped up the action on the field. In the past, if fans were stuck in a venue security line and missed the first pitch, it wasn’t a big concern because they could be at the ballpark for almost three and a half hours. Now, games are finishing in less than three hours, making every minute inside the venue count. AI helps to get fans into ballparks quickly, maximizing the time they spend in the stands, at concessions or buying merchandise.

Scalability and integration

Organizations do not want to – nor should they have to – start from scratch every time a new technology comes along that can improve venue security. It’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds, but that’s why venues should be careful to select a solution that works for them currently and that can work alongside technology six months – or years – from now. The solution might have to work with technology that doesn’t even exist yet.

As for the technology that does exist, venues are looking for weapons detection that can integrate with the solutions they already have in place, whether that’s security cameras or communications tools that allow for mass notifications to security personnel with the touch of a button. Open API empowers venue security officials to integrate weapons detection with whatever technology they need to best protect their guests.


A venue should never feel like it is on an island, left to fend for itself once the technology is implemented. Stadium or venue security personnel want a vendor they can partner with in a meaningful way. With advanced weapons detection, that collaboration might be as simple as continually improving the software when updates become available. The most successful partnerships, though, are more hands-on.

Collaboration from a weapons detection vendor means a commitment of time and resources. It involves making sure the technology fits what the venue needs, working with whatever else is in place. It’s making sure the installation goes smoothly and then sticking around to see that everything is working properly. That doesn’t just mean testing the system – it means watching it work for a number of events and making sure the system works as it is supposed to as well as ensuring that the people using it are comfortable operating it.

Technology has come a long way and can do amazing things. Metal detectors are like an old, 1980s-era sedan – they get the job done, but there are better options. Advanced screeners are a new, sleeker version of that car, still getting you from point A to point B… but weapons detection with AI is in its own category, like flying first class compared to that sedan.

The best solutions are the ones that can complement what is already in place. If you don’t have the right people and processes, the technology can only go so far. The most secure facilities feature weapons detection as part of a layered approach to venue security – people, process and technology.

The proper weapons detection solution can make a huge difference when it comes to a positive guest experience.

About the author

John Baier is Evolv’s Vice President of Sports and Entertainment. He oversees all team and league relationships and is focused on enhancing fan security while transforming the entire ingress experience through innovation and technology. Prior to joining Evolv, John spent the last 15 years of his career with BSE Global running business development and customer experience.  

This article was originally published in the July edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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