Crime & Courts

Arena security is all set

The grand opening of Intrust Bank Arena last Saturday wasn't just a chance for thousands of people to get their first look inside. It was also a chance for local law enforcement officials to test security measures that they've developed for events there.

Their verdict? A hearty thumbs-up.

"We were very pleased with how it went," said Capt. John Speer, commander of the Wichita Police Department's Patrol South Bureau, which covers the arena area.

Local law enforcement officials have been working with arena management to develop security measures for events of varying sizes, Speer said.

The arena hosts its first event Saturday with a performance by country star Brad Paisley.

For major events — such as high-profile concerts and sporting events that are expected to sell out or approach seating capacity — 16 police officers and two supervisors will be on duty.

For medium events, attracting about 8,000 people, eight police officers and one supervisor will work.

For small events, with crowds of less than 4,000, two officers will be patrolling.

"I'd rather have more officers than not enough down there," Speer said. "Our whole goal is that people who are attending arena events, that they have a good experience downtown as well as a safe one."

When warmer weather arrives, Speer said, officers on bicycle patrol will augment security in the arena area.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office will have 17 officers at Saturday's concert, Capt. George Mason said. The number of officers used at future events will vary depending on factors such as crowd size, cash flow in the concession stands, and whether alcohol is being sold, he said.

While off-duty police officers are being paid overtime by the city for their arena security work, sheriff's officers providing arena security will be paid an hourly rate by SMG, the company managing the arena.

"It's not coming out of our budget," Mason said.

The overtime being paid to police officers has already been factored into the department budget, Speer said.

Sheriff's officers will provide security inside the arena and on the property next to it, along with a small employee parking lot. Police will provide traffic control and monitor parking lots and the neighborhoods surrounding the arena complex.

There will be more than 60 people dressed in "security" T-shirts for arena events to help patrons find their seats or a concession stand or restroom, Mason said.

More than 90 security cameras will monitor activity inside and next to the arena.

"Almost anywhere you go around that building or inside that building, it's on camera," Mason said.

The arena has a squad room for sheriff's officers to use, as well as two rooms that can serve as interrogation rooms or holding cells as needed, he said. There's a separate area for Emergency Medical Services on the concourse level.

There is no designated room for police inside the arena. Officers working security will meet an hour before the event next to elevated railroad tracks on Douglas to review and coordinate plans.

Mason said patrons coming to arena events in these first few weeks should arrive an hour or more ahead of time and bring plenty of patience.

"It's a brand-new facility," he said. "It's very nice. Expect some delays.... Everyone's new at what they're doing."

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