Metal detectors may become fixtures at State Farm Center

Metal detectors may become fixtures at State Farm Center

CHAMPAIGN — State Farm Center is considering the use of walk-through metal detectors to improve security at arena events, Director Kevin Ullestad said this week.

In an interview for News-Gazette Media's "Campus Conversation" podcast, Ullestad said officials are discussing that and other proposals as part of an ongoing security review.

The metal detectors would be permanent and used for all concerts, shows and athletic events, he said.

"We like that idea. And it's not new," he said, adding that they're already common in Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

"Obviously, security and safety of our guests and our patrons is our number-one priority, without a doubt," Ullestad said.

Currently, State Farm Center staff use hand-held metal detectors at some shows with a "more active crowd," such as a rock or hip-hop concert, he said.

"We're not using wands on every show," he said.

Ullestad said hand-held metal detectors were used "quite heavily" at the arena after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, along with bag searches and other security measures. But over the years, their use had fallen off, he said.

The Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 in England, where 23 people were killed, "ratcheted it up again," he said.

"The industry changes, but it's evolved to the point where we've got to be very safety-focused for everything. That's not a bad thing," he said.

State Farm Center searches patrons' bags at every event. And the university launched a new policy this year allowing only clear bags inside the arena and Memorial Stadium.

Each guest can carry one large clear plastic or vinyl bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. A small clutch (4x7 inches), a diaper bag or a bag approved for medical needs are also permitted after a search by security personnel.

All other bags, totes and coolers are prohibited. Coats and jackets may also be searched.