Lewis-Tyson Fight A SECURITY KNOCKOUT
Jul 1, 2002 12:00 PM
It was a scene that slapped conventional boxing wisdom in the face. Two fighters prepared for a main event in opposite corners, separated by a solid diagonal line of unwavering security guards. And that was just for security inside the ring.
After being awarded the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis heavyweight championship pay-per-view extravaganza, security administrators at the Pyramid arena in Memphis, Tenn., had very little time to prepare for security outside the ropes, where patrons paid as much as $2,500 for a ticket.
"They put me and Inspector Larry Godwin together to start working on this thing in early May, and we pulled it off," says Officer Robert Skelton of the Memphis Police Department. "It went absolutely wonderfully. We're in the process of putting the after-event report together, and the only problem we encountered stemmed from the crowd being so large on Front Street [outside the Pyramid], that we needed a better plan for the contraband checks. We had eight metal detectors across the front of the building, and we actually needed about 12."
According to Eric Granger, director of event services at the Pyramid, there were actually 30 walk-through metal detectors used in other areas of the building to screen employees, members of the media and other visitors.
In order to monitor activities inside and outside the arena, Pyramid officials relied on a new Internet-based surveillance system, which includes 28 cameras throughout the facility. An FBI agent was stationed in an HBO production truck "so we had cameras that we could use to zoom in on something anywhere in the building," Skelton says.
Tickets for the event were provided by Weldon, Williams and Lick of Arkansas, and included an anti-counterfeit component ¡ª a strip on the back that could be checked with an ultraviolet light. "None of the bad tickets made it to the gates," Granger says.
Thomas Zeller, security director at the Downtown Memphis Marriott, located across the street from the Memphis Cook Convention Center ¡ª site of the media center and many pre-fight events ¡ª says he experienced very few problems over the course of fight week. "We had our limited number of noise complaints, but that was about it."
To cut down on parties and celebrity seekers inside the hotel, officials used basic access control strategies. "We did a lock-down the last two days [leading to the fight], cutting down to only one entrance, and only allowed guests and a limited number of outside people in," Granger says. Officials disabled the Tesa card readers on side doors and directed people back to the main entrance to accomplish the one-entrance plan.
Security measures were first put to the test during the Tyson weigh-in at the convention center. The Shelby County Sheriff SWAT team was in full battle fatigues, and didn't hesitate to get in the faces of hundreds of photographers and reporters who pushed boundaries and challenged limits.
Tyson's penchant for being an in-the-ring renegade drew the focus of a good portion of the security response inside the Pyramid. The Memphis P.D. began by storing a small cache of riot gear under the ring. "We had 12 riot shields and some other things there, and the main reason was because we had the mayor and the governor on the floor, so in the event of a bad situation, we wanted to be able to protect them and the fighters."
As for manpower, the department put together two ring-walk teams, which consisted of seven officers each, and limited each fighter's entourage considerably. Three six-man teams and one eight-man team were charged with responding in case the ring were rushed. "One of the six-man teams was responsible for getting the mayor and the governor out of the building if something happened," Skelton says. "We handled everything diplomatically, and I think everyone left with a real good feeling."
Access control was primarily a low-tech endeavor at the hotel and the convention center. Officials relied on colored arm bands in order to identify various groups ¡ª law enforcement, media, guests, etc. The convention center, however, plans to upgrade electronic security as part of its current expansion project.
Ron Posey, project manager, HOK Design Build, says the center has planned improved remote access control using an intercom and camera system. The center also plans to double the size of its security monitoring room and install a new SimplexGrinnell alarm system.