In Focus: Event Management
This story commissioned by Capital One Bank:
During LSU's heartbreaking loss to rival Alabama on Nov.3, the national media and the American public fixed their eyes on Tiger Stadium and the LSU campus. With a record crowd of 93,374 cheering on LSU, Tiger Stadium was at its finest.
The following Monday, ESPN sportscaster Scott Van Pelt summed up his observations on his daily radio show.
"For three hours on Saturday Night, I don't know that there has ever been an atmosphere in sports that I've been a part of that was as memorable to me... If you see a movie, you read a book or you see something that lingers with you afterwards, that is how you know it was great. What we saw Saturday night is something that won't soon leave me."
However, none of these experiences would be possible without the effort of LSU's event management team and their collaboration with Louisiana agencies. Director of Game/Event Management David Taylor and his staff are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for all of the athletic departments' events.
"From the guidelines in our profession and through the conference policies, our job is that we are responsible for the overall operations on game day," Taylor said. "We are ultimately the representatives of the athletic director on site, coordinating all of the different groups and insuring that it is a safe, friendly and fun atmosphere."
LSU police is directly in charge of all security and law enforcement, and is the direct link to other agencies. The event managers and the police rely on their eye in the sky, the stadium operations command center, to control all of the dynamic elements of a home game.
Inside the operations booth are representatives from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff department, the Louisiana State police, the National Weather Service from New Orleans, a first aid medical volunteer and an Acadian Ambulance dispatcher.
"Any call that we get goes to our command center off site. The LSU police representative will then distribute those calls," Taylor said. "LSU Police has video cameras up there so that we have sights all around campus and not just the stadium. They have the ability to jump around. When there are so many people on the ground level and you cannot see everything, those eyes and ears above are a huge advantage to us."
In addition to the command center, the event management team employs close to 550 people which include gate captains, field marshals and bag checkers. In total, there are over 2,000 people working at Tiger Stadium on gamedays including but limited to concessions, maintenance, the medical team and security. Each of these groups is broken down, has individual supervisors and is vital to a successful event.
Taylor and his staff are able to communicate with the stadium operations command center and their staff through radio. With a noise level that has been known to register an earthquake, communication can be difficult.
"It is loud, but after working in the business, and especially here, you get adjusted to it," Taylor said. "You just have to know how to be direct and brief. Our gate captains and our supervisors are on one channel with us. We take in all of the calls and filter in what information is coming and going. Whether it is custodial, maintenance or an unruly fan, there are usually a lot of pregame calls. Once the game starts, it settles down a bit because most people are in their seats watching the game."
The SEC Fan Code of Conduct is strictly enforced in Tiger Stadium. Fans that misbehave are issued a verbal warning, followed by a written warning detailing LSU's and the conference's expectations. A third strike results in expulsion from the stadium by law enforcement.
When the safety of everyone who loves LSU football hangs in the balance, extensive planning makes it easier to execute difficult decisions.
"A big part of our job is risk management," Taylor said. "When you have a stadium of 90 thousand plus, it is a prime target. It is our job to ask difficult questions and be as thorough as possible."