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New Beaver Stadium Entry Procedures in Need of Obvious Fixes

by on October 11, 2016 5:00 AM

The end of last week was a harrowing time for friends and family in Florida and along the east coast of the Carolinas. Hurricane Matthew caused wind damage, flooding and power outages in many areas. We were regularly getting “safe” reports on social media and emails with videos showing some of the destruction. After it was over everyone we know was secure and without any lasting damage to life or limb. Sadly, other people and places weren’t as fortunate.

We were thinking about this as we tailgated on Saturday morning before Penn State’s Homecoming football game against Maryland. A drizzling rain, most likely the outermost manifestation of the hurricane, was an annoying accomplice to our festivities, but hardly a blip on the proverbial radar screen compared to those who were in the main path of the storm.

This was the first game of the year we were able to attend as a family. High school futbol had created scheduling conflicts with Penn State football for the first three home games and in that clash family always wins. Instead of spending fall Saturdays in Beaver Stadium we had been in Chambersburg, Lewisburg and downtown on Memorial Field.

So, while the constant sprinkle was annoying, it gave us an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in Happy Valley. Having lived for 13 years in Orlando we had ridden out some close calls with hurricanes and in all that time had only once suffered some minor shingle damage.

Here in Happy Valley we are almost completely devoid of catastrophic natural disasters. While many areas of the country exist in a constant state of peril of potential hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or earthquakes, by and large Happy Valley suffers from no regular impending tragedy.

Which is just another reason to be happy in Happy Valley. We can rest easy at night and sleep soundly knowing we are about as safe as one can get in this country from a natural disaster.

But what about a man-made disaster?

Apparently man-made disasters are something of a possibility.

I have been attending Penn State football games since Sept. 30, 1972 – I still have the program from my first game – and enjoy supporting student-athletes in a number of sports at the university. Over the years, and especially in the last 15, the specter of some unknown tragedy has caused greater and greater restrictions for those attending these sporting events – especially for those going to a football game in Beaver Stadium.

When our daughter was young it was possible to carry her out of the stadium when she needed a walk or a breather from the mass of humanity, and then go back in once she was ready. Soon after our son was born that convenience disappeared, and we stopped buying tickets for a while until we could get seats that were individual chairs so the kids could have their personal space. We all know how that tends to disappear on the bench seats.

Prior to the start of this season a new restriction was put in place – security screening at the entry gates to Beaver Stadium using metal detection wands. Every fan entering the stadium would experience an individual metal detection wanding – front and back. Somehow the athletic department felt that opening the gates two hours prior to kickoff would provide ample time for all fans to pass through security.

Well, I don’t know how this procedure worked at the other three home games, but I can tell you it was a complete disaster of its own on Saturday.

We left our tailgate 30 minutes before kickoff and walked to gate B. It takes at most five minutes to walk to the gate from our parking spot, and then we normally show our tickets, go right in, take the escalator, walk around to the northeast corner of the stadium and sit down in our seats in plenty of time for the team entrance and kickoff.

However, on Saturday, when we crossed Curtin Road to get to gate B we were met with a huge line of fans stretching around the stadium. A quick walk around the edges of the crowd and check of Gate C showed similar conditions. I was shocked. So we stood in line. As we went to our seats we looked down at the lines and there were thousands of people still standing outside at opening kickoff. We sat down just after Penn State scored their first touchdown. And that was only through deft line-maneuvering skills we learned at Pat O’Brien’s back in 1982.

Here’s the rub: the reasoning behind this plan, the safety and well-being of the student-athletes and fans, is unarguable. Who doesn’t want everyone to be as safe as possible?

It reminds me of a story I was told as a child when confronting my first restrictive rule. The adult who had to answer my “why” question chose to tell me that sometimes rules or laws were good – we just didn’t know it at the time. For example, he himself had many years ago been appointed the Chief Elephant Control Officer for our city in central Pennsylvania, and was tasked with the vital duty of protecting all citizens from marauding herds of elephants that could cause great damage and possible death. This was a critical job and one that few people knew he had. Puzzled, I mentioned that I had never heard of any elephants anywhere near our town. He responded, “I’m doing a great job, aren’t I?!”

As a customer supporting the business that pays the people who decided to follow this “industry best practice” I would like to suggest they find a better way to implement their plan. For starters, why not open ALL the entry lines at Gate B? And how about five times more wanding staff to help the harried crew members that were working? Many popular retailers have a rule that if there are more than three people in line they open a new line.

The 2011 Penn State Football Yearbook listed 13 people in the athletic department with Assistant or Associate Athletic Director titles. The 2016 Yearbook lists 27. In the last five years Penn State has more than doubled the amount of athletic “chiefs” who make decisions. Maybe all these additional chiefs can make some decisions that won’t inconvenience thousands of their customers?

Then we as residents of Happy Valley can continue living joyful and content lives free from the risk of man-made disasters just as we do natural disasters.



John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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