Increased security checkpoints have become a way of life at airports and public buildings, and college sports fans of Kansas State University and the University of Kansas will face higher scrutiny as changes in the state concealed carry law take effect this summer.
As of July 1, under a law passed four years ago by the Kansas Legislature, anyone over the age of 21 will be allowed to carry a firearm onto university grounds in Kansas. Firearms may be prohibited in specified facilities, but that requires the implementation of Adequate Security Measures (ASM) involving metal detectors and/or the use of hand wands.
“The law has been in effect but the universities had a four-year exemption to plan and put policies and procedures in place before the law affected the campuses,” said Casey Scott, senior associate athletics director for operations and event management at K-State. “That exemption expires on July 1.
“We had made a determination, and I believe KU and Wichita State in the same regard, that we would not want weapons concealed carried into our athletics events in our football stadium and in Bramlage Coliseum at the higher-level attended events. That’s how we are proceeding at this point.”
For the 2017-18 football and basketball seasons, K-State will have metal detectors at all public gates at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum, as will KU at Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse.
The price tag for the equipment and the staff to operate the system is hefty.
“We’re estimating the purchase of about 73 metal detectors to cover our football stadium and that total cost will be roughly $420,000,” Scott said. “In addition, we’ll have to hire an outside security group to provide the manpower. Using the information the consultants brought us, we estimate it will take at a football game up to 200 additional people to provide the screening and operate the metal detectors. That will probably cost us around $210,000 for the football season.
“We would buy metal detectors that are portable and use the same screening and metal detectors at Bramlage for men’s and women’s basketball. We’ll need 22 to 25 in Bramlage and we’ll probably have to have about 50 security people per game helping us man those. The personnel cost for basketball season to cover roughly 36 men’s and women’s games would be $130,000, so that’s close to $800,000 in this first year for equipment and manpower, and in subsequent years our cost would be primarily the labor to operate the machines.”
Jim Marchiony, associate AD/public affairs at KU, estimates the cost to implement security measures at events with an anticipated attendance of 5,000 or more at approximately $1 million.
“Since this subject has come up, we’ve said the first priority is safety of the fans,” Marchiony said. “We’re not going to get specific about the security measures but I’ll tell you that metal detectors and wanding will be part of the process.”
With four years to prepare for this process, Scott said the money to cover the cost has been budgeted and won’t be placed on the fans with sudden ticket price increases. The cost also has been budgeted at KU.
“Well, I think it’s going to be budgeted in a separate way,” Marchiony said. “We’ll look at the whole budgeting process but the cost will not be passed down to the fans.”
Scott said wanding is less expensive but also less efficient than walk-through metal detectors.
“It is highly taxing on people to wand other people,” Scott said. “You’re talking 50,000 people coming into a (football) game and physically you can’t do it fast enough. As we explored that and worked with consultants and security firms, we made the determination that to make it feasible to get the amount of people into the facility in a reasonable amount of time, the only way you can do it is through metal detectors.”
K-State began the process of increased security during the past 2016-17 sports season with the implementation of a clear bag policy for all ticketed athletic events. That limits carry-in bags to one-gallon clear plastic or vinyl bags and prohibits items such as coolers, briefcases, fanny packs and computer bags.
The KU athletic department will institute a clear bag policy for the 2017-18 season along with metal detectors.
“We’ve been planning this and while we didn’t solidify plans, yet, we were getting ready for implementation in case the law didn’t change and we were also waiting for direction from the university and the Board of Regents, also,” Marchiony said.
“Communication is important any time you make a change like this that has the potential to affect so many people. We have sent messages directly to our donors and season ticket holders explaining what is going to happen. We had football select-a-seat very recently and gave information at that time. We’re going to take every opportunity to reinforce the message so hopefully there won’t be anybody who arrives at the first football game who doesn’t know what the policy is.”
The acceptance of clear bag policy by Wildcat fans went as smoothly as could have been expected.
“The clear bag policy was always step one in upgrading our security measures knowing that the coming season (2017-18) we likely would have to go to metal detectors, unless there was a change in the law,” Scott said. “What the clear bag policy was intended to do was help speed people through the screening process as they got to the metal detectors. Our intention was to have a year in which to communicate to our fans what the clear bag policy was about in terms of security benefits and speeding people into the facility.
“There has been a learning curve, of course, but I would say as we got through football and basketball that 90 to 95 percent of our fans had adapted to the clear bag policy. There were folks who did not like it, obviously, and there were push backs from families that want to bring in large diaper bags. We get that, but we all knew going into the second phase of the security that we were trying to help acclimate people to what’s going to be a higher level of security.”
Baylor is the only Big 12 school that has used metal detectors.
“They went to using metal detectors at their football stadium this past year,” Scott said. “During our game there we viewed their operation and got quite a bit of good information and tips on what to do and what not to do as they went through their first year.”
As fans adjust to the screening process, the biggest adjustment may be to shut down tailgates parties earlier to make their way through the stadium gates.
“This level of security is fairly common and accepted now at all professional venues,” Scott said. “I believe if you go to a Chiefs game or a Royals game, you’re going to walk through a metal detector. I know when you go to the Sprint Center, you walk through a metal detector.
“It will be an adjustment for our fans at K-State and they’re going to probably have to move toward the gates much sooner than they used to because it will take longer to get in the gate.”
Fan safety is the priority of the increased security measures.
“I think maybe it’s natural the first time or two that you go to an event, it would be natural to wonder if anybody is carrying firearms,” Marchiony said, “but I think as we go forward that feeling will decrease.”