The Boston Marathon bombings that shocked the world also shook communities that host entertainment venues, seeing firsthand as they did how easy it was to bring explosives into a crowd – and set them off.
Since the April 15 attack, the National Football League has banned a number of carry-in items from all its arenas, including Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, offering up a new, strict policy that allows fans to bring belongings in small, clear plastic bags only. Managers of other performance and sports venues south of Boston are also taking a hard look at their policies, with some intent on making changes to improve security, and others saying their restrictions are already stringent.
In Mansfield, town officials and the owners of the 20,000-seat Comcast Center off Interstate 495 have decided to bring in a bomb-sniffing dog for all events. While they may still bring bags into the venue, ticket-holders must now allow them to be searched, and tagged, so that police patrolling the perimeter know they are safe.
Officials have also created a new central command center at the site staffed with police, fire, and emergency medical services responders, and the Comcast Center’s own security staff. Another three police squads are walking the property at all times.
Mansfield selectmen recently approved the plan along with the Comcast Center’s 2013 entertainment license. The venue’s general manager, Bruce Montgomery, said patrons are encouraged to leave at home what they don’t need at the event.
“Obviously, our number one priority is public safety,’’ Montgomery said. “This is our 28th season, and we’ve always been diligent in what people bring in.”
Like Gillette Stadium, its 60,000-seat neighbor, the Comcast has been plagued by high numbers of alcohol-related and other arrests and protective custodies that occur during events. Security was already tight at both locations in recent years to stem binge drinking, violent crimes, and fights.
Mansfield Town Manager William Ross said the town’s new security strategy was well in the works before the Marathon bombings, then enhanced after the attack — similar to the way things are being handled with the NFL directive in Foxborough.
“We realized we needed to do things in a different manner,’’ Ross said.
Meanwhile, Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium, a smaller venue that is the home of the Brockton Rox baseball team, will see no specific changes in response to the bombings, said its general manager, Michael Canina.
Bags are allowed, but searched before entry, and while a few fans might try to sneak in alcohol now and then, that’s about the extent of any trouble, Canina said.
“Knock on wood, we’ve never had someone try to smuggle in a weapon,” he said of the experience at the 12-year-old, 4,700-seat facility on Feinberg Way that hosts a variety of crowds at its minor-league games, summer concerts and festivals, and Mixed Martial Arts exhibitions.
Canina said patrons at the Campanelli can still bring in pocketbooks, backpacks, and diaper bags for family-friendly activities, but they’d better be ready to open them. Ticket-holders for concerts and other similar events are sent to a more stringent staging area for a search, a pat-down, and wanding with a metal detector, he said.
Canina said he appreciates anything that keeps people safe, especially after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the most recent incident in Boston. “I’m not one of those people who thinks it’s ridiculous,’’ he said.
“If it takes an extra hour to ensure safety and security, I’ll do it,” Canina said. “If they want me to take off my shoes, I’ll take them off. I have two small kids. You make adjustments to the world we live in.”