The New York Giants were not the only victors of Super Bowl XLII. Behind the scenes of professional sports’ greatest spectacle was another winning team — one that helped ensure the safety of the 73,000+ rabid football fans who descended upon University of Phoenix Stadium. Its name: Benson Systems.
The Gilbert, Ariz.-based integrator is the primary electronic security provider for the mammoth Westgate City Center mixed-use community that includes the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, Jobing.com Arena, where the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes skate, a convention center, retail stores, hotels and a residential district.
Benson Systems designed and installed a networked security system backbone to support the entire development. It includes IP video surveillance, a command and control center, IP card access control and monitoring, and intrusion detection.
The “super” system recently earned Benson Systems, whose founder and CEO Shawn Benson was aptly an all-star quarterback during his high school days, the security industry’s equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy — SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION’s 2008 Integrated Installation of the Year Award.
The firm captured the crowning achievement announced during SSI’s SAMMY Awards ceremony in Las Vegas April 1. Convergent Technologies of Schaumburg, Ill., was runner-up. Benson’s winning entry demonstrates extraordinary skill and acumen in design, engineering and installation.
Established in 2002, the Integrated Installation of the Year Award program judges entries according to innovation; systems design; integration of at least three electronic systems; seamlessness of installation; uniqueness of application; and end-user satisfaction.
With the Westgate project, Benson Systems has been thrust into the limelight by scoring with a solution of uncommon quality, ingenuity and merit. Huddle up for an inside report on an installation that is the stuff of champions.
Clients Put First, Kept Well Informed
Launched in 1986, Benson Systems has grown from its humble beginnings with a small leased office and warehouse space to become one of Arizona’s leading systems integration companies. Today, it occupies the 56,000-square-foot Benson Corporate Center, has more than 6,000 clients and expects to earn $12 million in 2008.
The company provides integrated fire alarm and sprinkler, video surveillance, access control, and intrusion solutions to the commercial and industrial marketplaces. The sprinklers are handled by a new division that also provides fire pumps, private fire hydrants, hood systems, fire extinguishers and required system inspections. Monitoring services are contracted out to Arizona Security Control.
The company’s great success and low account attrition rate of 3 percent is the result of keeping customers happy. According to the firm’s president, one of the two key ingredients of that winning formula is Benson Systems’ seasoned personnel and familial culture.
“I am fortunate to have several people who work for me that I went to high school with,” says Benson. “My V.P. of operations, Mitch King, is a lifelong friend. I have known David Calhoun, director of my service department, since high school. Most of the upper managers have been with me for 10+ years. We have many technicians who have been here for over a decade.”
The second quality that helps set Benson Systems apart is its commitment to not just superlative customer service, but also to truly informing clients so they feel like they are active participants in their security solutions.
“I have had many customers tell me they chose our company because we went to great lengths to educate them about the products, whether they are what we suggested or recommendations from competitors,” says Benson, who is NICET Level 4 certified. “We offer side-by-side comparisons and let the customer choose what works best for them.”
That approach has allowed Benson Systems to cultivate long-lasting relationships built on trust. It was just that sort of relationship with Phoenix’s NHL franchise that helped the integrator get an inside line on the Westgate project, site of the hockey club’s new arena.
Developer Values Security
Development of the 223-acre Westgate City Center began early this decade with the construction of the two pro sports venues, which were completed in 2003. Construction of the remainder of Westgate did not begin until October 2005.
Phase I, the initial 510,000-square-foot development, opened to the public in November 2006 with a smattering of eateries, shops and a multiplex. Phase II, projected for completion by the end of this year, will add an estimated 436,000-square-foot retail center and 105,000 square feet of neighborhood stores to be integrated into a 440-unit residential district.
An additional eight phases are planned, with the entire project expected to total 6.5 million square feet of retail space, employ 10,000 people and be home to 8,000 more when completed by 2015.
Benson Systems came into the picture in May 2007 after Nick Micatrotto, director of sales, and Panasonic’s sales team won over The Ellman Companies, developer of the Westgate project. “Benson Systems was brought in to evaluate Westgate’s security program just after the grand opening of Phase I,” says Mark Bell, director of security for The Ellman Companies. “Due to the development’s size, the amount of people expected to visit the center, and potential for growth, security is a high priority.”
Sold on IP Technology
Having discussed The Ellman Companies’ long-range plans and desire to create a comprehensive, expandable solution that would accommodate the development’s multiphase design and construction, Benson Systems specified an IP-based solution utilizing
Cisco physical security products and network infrastructure.
“They knew they wanted a camera and access control system, but their initial thoughts were on an analog system,” says Peter Hudson, marketing manager for Benson Systems. “We suggested and explained the newer IP technology, and the client went with it.”
According to Bell, the end user wanted the security system to match the cutting-edge standard Westgate City Center is setting for mixed-use developments. “We were also concerned with expandability,” he says. “We needed a system that would have the capability to grow with us and serve us well for a number of years down the road.”
With everyone sold on the merits of an IP-based platform, Benson Systems dove into the $600,000 installation in June 2007 and wrapped up the integrated system for Phase I — also known as the “Entertainment District” — in September of last year.
Video Made Accessible
Initially, Benson Systems installed 16 IP Panasonic pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras, which were connected to the security network backbone. These cameras were intended to be used for crowd control, traffic flow and security measures, primarily for sporting events and the retail center.
Expansion of the video surveillance system quickly called for another 40 cameras and will eventually include as many as 200 more IP p/t/z cameras, as well as some fixed models — all connected back to a security command center.
The cameras record data utilizing a Cisco integrated services platform network video recorder (NVR), and are managed from two workstations where security personnel can maneuver the cameras via joysticks. The security console is designed in a U-shape and is capable of accommodating five workstations. The video wall features two 32-inch LCD displays and eight 20-inch monitors.