BY KIT GRODE
Chad Ball has been working security at the Tyson Events Center for eight and a half years, and he has seen several national championships visit the arena, in addition to the hockey games, indoor football games and concerts that the building also hosts. He, and the security staff are “in charge of making sure that pedestrians are safe throughout the building. We make sure that people come here to have a good time, and [that they] leave saying they had a good time–nothing brutal–and making sure that the environment is appropriate.”
A positive environment is especially important to a security guard because Ball’s job is to make sure that the fans are able to enjoy the event without having to worry about disturbances or their personal safety. In order to best address situations as they come up, and to ensure that every area is covered, security guards are dispersed throughout the building.
“It depends on what your assignment is,” said Jeff Johnson. “Sometimes you have to stay in a certain spot, per say, and other times you can cover pretty much the whole arena. It’s nice to mix them both up–gives you different things to do.”
Dennis Hammerstrom’s job keeps him in one area, but he enjoys his position all the more for it. Hammerstrom started working as an usher for the Tyson Events Center when it opened 10 years ago, left for a while and transitioned to working the south vomitory part-time four years ago.
“I get [the teams] in and out on time and don’t let them out early,” Hammerstrom said. “I lock the doors and locking their locker rooms for them so no one gets in there while they’re on the court.”
Hammerstrom provides more hands-on assistance to the teams during games and championships, rather than working with the fans and audience. Due to his position, Hammerstrom rarely encounters any problems or situations that arise. Instead, his focus remains on the teams and coaches.
“We’ve had problems. We’ve had problems with people being intoxicated, to where it took more than one [security] person because it was a group,” Ball said. “We all work together; we talk and get the whole story–their story–and then we make decisions based on facility whether it is appropriate to discharge or sit them down and have a nice night.”
Should there be a disturbance in the crowd affecting several fans, security will intervene, but they generally try to be as unobtrusive as possible.
“We would generally just walk up there and talk to the individual, politely, and try to find out what the problem is and see if there’s anything we can rationale to where he or she can continue on with their time. Otherwise, if it’s so bizarre that they can’t, we have to ask them to leave the building due to the other people around them. One person can ruin a whole crowd for having fun. We try to prevent it.”
Championships, which go on for several days and have many different crowds and atmospheres, can sometimes make for more difficult security operations than a concert only in town for a single night. Ball has found the balance between the two event types, however, in making sure to focus in on the here and now rather than the past.
“I come here every day with a positive attitude. Every day is a positive thought; if I dealt with something yesterday, that stays yesterday. I come today–I’m a fresh guy. We’re going to have a great day; we’re going to watch some basketball and it’s going to go great. Every day is different.”
There have only been two incidents so far at the championship, and both incidences were settled quickly. Ball was not involved in the first incident, but he was present for the second, when the police department did come to the Events Center to ask the group involved to leave. Police involvement is rare, however.
“With me, I don’t [have trouble], because I’m so tall. They usually cooperate and let me walk them out,” Ball said. “In this case, there was more than one, so I couldn’t take it that easy. I took more guards and I wound up taking police to help with the situation.”
Security is a visible presence in the arena, but they are not here to disrupt the fans’ experience. Instead, they are constantly on the lookout to make sure fans are having the best time possible.
“We come here to have a good time,” Ball said. “We’re not bullies; we’re not mean. We do our job and make sure you’re having fun and that they’re having fun. The championships–I love working them because you see all those colleges and all those people smiling and laughing and cheering. And that’s worth it for me–to stand there and make sure that they’re having fun and see them smiling instead of throwing fists or getting crazy.”
For his part, Hammerstrom does his best to give teams, coaches and fans the best experience he can provide.
“I just like working down here for the events. You get to see good basketball and you see a lot of people here,” Hammerstrom said. “You see, a lot of people from a lot of different areas are here, and their only experience with a Sioux City person might be me, so you want to do the best job you can for them.”
Ball comes back after his shift ends to support his local teams as well, cheering them on as a spectator.
“I like the local teams. I like to support them. They do a good job and so I think it’s more than right, not just to be here because it’s a paycheck.”