LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The largest crowd for Arkansas’s entire high school football season is coming to Little Rock this Saturday, and new features at War Memorial Stadium are ensuring high school and college crowds are the safest they have ever been.
Final touches like field paint and stadium seats are being put in place at War Memorial clearly visible to fans.
“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes during an event like this,” stadium manager John Latch said.
Some new technology will be noticed almost instantly. Others may not be noticed at all. In 2017, the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism (ADPHT) began managing the War Memorial Stadium. In the years since, they’ve added metal detectors, updated all the security cameras, and by the Benton and Bryant face-off, a new communication system will be in place called ReadyOp.
Emergency Services Coordinator for ADPHT, Ed Thomas, said 100 officers could be at the Razorback 2023 season opener. At the Salt Bowl, there are as many as 17 agencies working together in one room he added. ReadyOp will keep them on the same page with detailed maps accessible by phone and the ability for a staff worker’s phone to be used as a radio to and from their command center if needed.
“It’s incredible to be able to pick your phone up and be able to open up a secure app and say you know this is what we need to do. This is the way we should proceed on any type of evacuation on any type of deal,” Thomas said.
Thomas received five hours of training on the program Thursday. Eventually, the app could be used to allow officers access to view each camera in the stadium if needed.
“It’s limited to your thoughts and imaginations on ReadyOp, and there are a lot of things that we see that we recognize that will help us out,” Thomas added.
According to Latch, the tech is new to the Little Rock area, but is already being used by NFL teams, like the Green Bay Packers. Schools and even NASA have their own uses for ReadyOp.
While many meetings and preparations still take place for the teams responsible for the major events’ safety, Latch said in some ways, “Now it’s as easy as being on phone.”
“I think about many Razorback game days where I’m on the golf course trying to communicate with two or three radios, and then using my phone where this just eliminates that and makes it much more user friendly and easier to communicate,” Latch said.
For the Razorback game on Sept. 2, the typical metal detectors will be replaced with advanced scanners that detect weapons. Latch said they can work without fans having to remove their phones or keys from their pockets, making for a much faster line.
With all the preparation the stadium is doing, they do ask those attending the game to prepare before coming out. A list of prohibited items and a parking plan for both big games on the War Memorial Stadium website.