Security Burns Brighter at Candlestick Park
A drop-off in system reliability and rise in high-profile violence at sports venues were in play as the San Francisco 49ers called a security audible and upgraded Candlestick Park’s over-the-hill video surveillance system. Integrator and end user explain how the migration to a networked solution has created a safer and more efficient game-day experience.
While the most conspicuous improvement pro football’s San Francisco 49ers underwent in 2011 played itself out on the field with a 10-3 record through 13 games, another upgrade behind the scenes has been no less dramatic. The city’s famed Candlestick Park, the Niners’ home since 1971, is safer and more efficient than ever thanks to substantial enhancements to the stadium’s video surveillance system.
The 49ers returning to their winning ways of the 1980s and 1990s — when they became the first team to win five Super Bowls — and fortified security have combined to create a much friendlier game-day experience for fans at Candlestick. It’s a far better environment than that of earlier in the year when violence erupted in and around the facility during a preseason contest against the Bay Area-rival Oakland Raiders.
The incidents included two parking-lot shootings, a bathroom beating that left a man unconscious and a fistfight melee in the stands. It marked the second time in less than five months that San Francisco sports fans had been involved in situations where rowdiness turned shockingly violent. In March, a Giants’ fan suffered brain injuries after being brutally attacked in Dodger Stadium’s parking lot.
However, 49ers team officials say these high-profile events were not what prompted Candlestick’s surveillance upgrade, at least not primarily. Rather it was driven by an outdated and failing legacy system. In the post-9/11 climate, that is an unacceptable proposition. The timing actually had more to do with the player lockout that had the NFL season in question into July, funding challenges and deciding how much to invest in a complex due to give way to a brand new stadium within the next few years.
“We had an antiquated system where it came to processing different angles, or better timelines or bookmarking certain things and replay functions,” says 49ers Vice President of Stadium Operations & Security Jim Mercurio, who has been with the club since its last NFL title in 1994. “The upgraded system was an opportunity to give our folks in the command post easier tools to be more efficient and effective.”
Like having to quickly develop and execute a strategic game plan for an upcoming opponent, Candlestick personnel teamed with security systems integrator IPVision and others to deploy a new IP-based video surveillance solution between home games this past September. Mercurio and IPVision Vice President of Engineering Ben Green, who worked on 2008’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, recount the process.
‘Super’ Integrator Chosen
Headquartered in Phoenix with branch offices in nearby Tucson, Dallas, San Jose, Chicago and London, IPVision was launched in 2004 after turning its concentration from network to security integration. The business now specializes in the government, education, law enforcement and utility sectors. Its revenue mix is 40 percent video surveillance, 30 percent access control, 10 percent intrusion detection and 20 percent custom integration.
“During the past five years IPVision has built a team of engineers and technicians that have a tremendous amount of experience in deploying IP physical security solutions for the majority of leading manufacturers,” says Green, one of IPVision’s founders. “This has given us a tremendous advantage by having such diverse experience in the market, and it has fueled our national and now international growth.”
For the Candlestick project, IPVision submitted a bid after being referred to the 49ers by a network integrator that had a history working with the stadium’s audio/video contractor.
“Ben and his company made an offer that was quite frankly difficult for us to turn our backs on,” says Mercurio. “It’s not fun to have to do a project like this during the season. I kind of wish our paths would have crossed a little sooner, but that’s how it goes sometimes. They really responded and it’s been great.”
IPVision’s prior NFL stadium experience also no doubt helped it win the contract, which was awarded in August and culminated discussions that began the beginning of the summer.
“We provided wireless rapid-deployment perimeter surveillance around the University of Phoenix stadium were the 2008 Super Bowl was held, and around NFL events that were taking place around downtown Phoenix,” says Green. “That project and Candlestick both required us to have the systems operational within a week.”
System Design X’s & O’s
Mercurio and 49ers management went into this undertaking with a firm handle on the types of features they were lacking and the capabilities they wanted their new system to be able to perform.
“It had to be user-friendly for system operators, and there are a number of folks who use it,” he says. “It had to be compatible with Candlestick’s antiquated equipment dating back to the 1970s or 1980s. It had to be able to watch more than 100 cameras, with pan/tilt/zoom to scan the facility. Finally, we wanted the ability to quickly save and send video clips to document incidents.”
Candlestick management’s initial mindset to simply repair and/or replace pre-existing hardware with similar products went by the wayside. This is because they were made aware of an alternative approach to achieve the functionality they coveted while realizing greater cost effectiveness.
“We consulted with the 49ers on what features they were looking for, the deficiencies in their current system, and suggested some ways to increase staff efficiency with mobile applications and access to the system via the network at different locations in the stadium,” says Green. “During the consultation we discussed implementing a migration plan that would allow them to leverage their existing cameras.”
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