KOKOMO, Ind. —Behind the cheers of the crowd, the smells of hotdogs and popcorn, the sounds of the basketball pounding the floor and swooshing through the net, there is security personnel working behind-the-scenes, making sure the thousands of people attending an Indiana Pacers basketball game stay safe.
Nineteen students in Indiana University Kokomo’s criminal justice and homeland security program experienced this firsthand, with a Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) trip to Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“A lot of times, students come into criminal justice wanting to go into law enforcement, or work in the court system or corrections,” said Beau Shine, assistant professor of criminal justice and homeland security. “I want to make sure they know how versatile their degrees are. There are a lot of opportunities in security, loss prevention, cybersecurity, and other fields.”
The group met with John Ball, vice president of security and event services for Pacers Sports and Entertainment and experienced what happens leading up to tip off. He noted that Ball is a great example of this versatility, having worked for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department before his current role.
“He came in with knowledge and expertise from his public sector role,” Shine said. “You can go to work in law enforcement for 20 or 25 years to get your full pension and retire in your 40s and make as much or more in private security."
The experience gave students an inside look at what goes into creating a safe environment for fans and players, and how much of that work happens in a way that goes unnoticed. It also makes them aware of the hundreds of people contributing to security.
“You get an appreciation for the work that goes unseen, and you can start to understand the ticket prices a little more. It’s a lot bigger than most people are aware of,” Shine said. “We saw an entire underlayer in the fieldhouse that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, including where their technology and staff are housed, monitoring social media threats in real time. They consider their ushers part of their security staff because they keep an eye on things.”
Kyndal Silcox learned there is more to private security than she originally believed. She gave the example of the concrete flowerpots outside the fieldhouse, which appear to be decorative, but actually serve as a barrier to prevent someone from driving into the building.
“Private security is not just bodyguard work or standing outside doors looking scary,” she said. “It is interacting with the public and being aware of your surroundings. I want whatever my career is to be highly involved and interactive, and a job in private security can offer me that.”
Silcox, from Walton, added that the trip also provided networking opportunities, because she met people she could contact about an internship or job in the future.
Gustavo Garcia said the trip made him realize how much happens out of public view to make events safe.
“From the architecture of the building, all the way to how the cameras are placed, to the amount and location for security guards, there is so much work put in,” the Frankfort resident said, noting there can be 500 people on security duty.
“Private security can open so many jobs,” he said.
Olivia Offenberger, Fort Wayne, said after Ball talked about small security measures, like counting on usher and custodians to be part of keeping a watchful eye out for potential issues, she was more aware of them during the game.
“It was valuable to hear him talk about the layers of protection, and then see it in action,” she said. “When the Pacers were playing, I saw all the security in black jackets standing in all the places he told us we would and doubling up the closer it got to the court. I also enjoyed him talking about the flowerpots, and how those protect the building from cars. We often don’t consider small aspects of security like that, that are actually big.”
Shine added the trip was free, including transportation, tickets, and meals. In addition to the educational opportunities, it also gave students the chance to build relationships among themselves and with faculty.
The experience was part of IU Kokomo’s KEY program, which launched in 2016 with the goal of providing students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences. The goal is for each student to have a free or low-cost travel experience within his or her major.
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.