EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The idea is simple: get as many as 80,000 people into MetLife Stadium as quickly and efficiently as possible in the most secure manner.
Beginning this week, the home of the New York Giants and Jets and site of dozens of other mega-events will use walk-through metal detectors at all gates. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, no more wanding or pat-downs.
And from what the folks who oversee security at the stadium have seen in test runs, the entry flow should be smooth sailing.
"It worked well and people seemed to like it. It's less intrusive," said Danny DeLorenzi, director of security and safety services at MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010. "Our goal is to get people safely into the stadium within 10 minutes."
The detectors, called magnetometers (or mags), are similar to those used by TSA officials at airports, except that fans don't need to remove their shoes or belts. As long as fans are not carrying anything metalic, or hiding any items, entry through the mags should be a snap. Of course, people coming from tailgating in the parking lot can forget they stuck a fork or knife — or even a spatula or corkscrew — in their pockets; yep, gate guards have found those, too.
Already, Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and Oakland Coliseum are in full use of the mags. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, will be next.
MetLife, which purchased a set of mags two years ago and began testing them soon after, went into full-use mode on Monday, with the first event, Summer Jam, scheduled for Sunday.
NFL security executives recommended to the owners last month that all 31 stadiums go to the walk-through detectors within two years. The investment at MetLife was about $500,000, and most clubs need to budget for such an expenditure over that period of time.
Already, six other franchises were studying the cost of installing the mags.
"This will expedite that evaluations process and we will see all the clubs come on board with this because it is the right thing to do," said Ray DiNunzio, the NFL's director of strategic security programs. "There are two major improvements with the mags: increasing the safety and security of our fans — nothing prohibited or that could cause harm to anyone gets in the stadium — and it's a less-invasive technique."
DeLorenzi notes another upgrade: the ease of getting into the stadium. Although he stresses that fans should consider entering a venue 45 minutes to one hour before an event begins, he understands the lure of tailgating before heading to the gates.
"When they come, it's a deluge," he said with a smile. "So you can never really judge when they will get in. But if they plan on coming into the stadium earlier, they will see it is an easy and safe process."
With 92 mags spread around five gates, and three guards per machine, some of whom serve as quasi traffic cops for fans uncertain where to go, it's quite an undertaking. A necessary one in which not only are the fans being educated, but so are those implementing the security plan.
"We've been using hand-held metal detectors since 2011, and there was a learning curve for fans and staff with those," the NFL's DiNunzio said. "We are creating a safer environment by using metal detector technology, and the efficiency factor improves dramatically, as does the quality of the screening. But there's a learning curve with (the mags), too."
Indeed, during the test period last season at one gate, DeLorenzi sometimes sat in the master control room in the bowels of MetLife Stadium and critiqued the performance of his employees. He had drawn an orange dot on the ground pretty much up against the detector itself to show where a guard should stand. Then he used the stadium's mega-pixel camera system to keep an eye on the guards, and when they strayed a foot or so from their proper post, he would radio down to them to get back into position.
"What I tell our guards," DeLorenzi said, pausing for emphasis, "is our job is to make the good people feel safe, and the bad guys feel uncomfortable."