Beginning this weekend all people attending live, ticketed performances at venues owned by the city of Little Rock will have to go through metal detectors. Those venues include Robinson Center Music Hall, First Security Amphitheater and the Statehouse Convention Center.
Efforts to improve safety at large gatherings like concerts were stepped up after October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas where a gunman firing down from a hotel room at a country music festival killed 58 people and injured more than 800.
"We are seeing nationwide a lot of promoters for these live entertainers are requiring this type of security measure for their concerts for the guest and patrons’ safety," said Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operate the venues.
The first show at a Little Rock-owned venue to use walk-through magnetometers will be Sunday night’s performance by singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Broadway productions will also require use of the security devices.
Hall says employees who will operate the equipment have been getting training.
"Our security team has been working with the new equipment and procedures and the set up to try and make it as streamlined as possible."
For anyone who can’t go through a metal detector, like someone with a pacemaker, hand wands will be used. Employees and others working at events will also be scanned.
Verizon Arena in North Little Rock already has similar security measures in place. For the Little Rock-owned facilities, Hall says finding adequate space has been the biggest challenge.
"Just setting up to make sure that we’ve got enough room in the lobby areas for people to come in from out of the weather before they actually enter through these magnetometers and go into the actual performance venue," she said.
All bags will be checked, and officials say those without bags will expedite the process. New size limits for bags are also being imposed, with additional details, as well as items that are not allowed, being listed here.
"We’re really seeing it as standard operating procedure in venues across the country and there’s no perfect system. The unfortunate incident that happened in Las Vegas, of course, that happened outside of the venue parameters, so there’s not a perfect system, but we’re trying to do our best to make sure that our guests have a good and safe environment to enjoy the entertainment that we’re able to offer," Hall said.
People attending conventions or using meeting rooms will not be subject to the metal detectors, Hall says, only those going to live, ticketed performances.