Bank OZK Arena Enhances Security Ahead of Hosting Graduations

Bank OZK Arena Enhances Security Ahead of Hosting Graduations

Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., has boosted its security as it prepares to host eight graduation ceremonies in the next few weeks.

Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., has boosted its security as it prepares to host eight graduation ceremonies in the next few weeks.

Jennifer Wolcott, director of operations for Visit Hot Springs, said the arena began to double down on security measures last year when it hosted the Arkansas State High School Basketball Tournament. As part of this year’s safety changes, only clear bags of 14 by 14 by 16 inches will be permitted inside of the arena, she said.

"During state basketball (this year), we probably had 55,000 people, give or take, and it went off really good that weekend," Wolcott said. "We had clear bags and the schools got the word out, and process and procedures were good. So this year for graduations, we've checked with Verizon (Arena) and all the other facilities in Arkansas. It's just what we're going to.”

Wolcott specified that the clear bags are required for all graduations in the arena this year, though they are looking into requiring them for other events. As part of the clear bags policy, only one bag is permitted per person, and all individuals entering the arena are subject to search.

"We're following what other venues are doing and trying to be proactive with it," Wolcott said. "We don't want anything to happen, so we're being proactive."

Other items prohibited at the graduation ceremonies include: knives, firearms, backpacks, fireworks/pyrotechnics, outside food or beverages, beach balls, Frisbees, confetti, streamers, laser pointers, balloons, noisemaking devices, audio or video recording devices other than phones, signs, flags and banners.

According to Wolcott, the new security protocols have received a positive response, which she attributes to communication with school districts.

"(The schools) got all the information out and this year, I've already had several calls thanking us for doing this," she said. "All the schools have our policy. We've been working with National Park (College) for over a year and they even sold clear bags for people on their campus. They've been working really well with us."

Wolcott said she believes the lack of pushback is thanks to similar policies at stadium events.

"We haven't had pushback and we think everyone will just work together and it will go well for us. Our main priority is for them and their safety, and I think when they realize that, everyone works together and we get it done."

The arena will host eight graduations in the coming weeks. The venue requires at least two Hot Springs police officers to be present, depending on the event’s size. The larger the event, the more officers present.

"A lot of the schools bring their own resource officers for their graduates, as well," Wolcott said.

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    March/April 2019

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