The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 18, 2009

Crowd control a concern

Arena hopes to avoid repeat of concert problems

By Dan Nienaber

MANKATO — A hard rock concert that drew one of the largest crowds ever to the Alltel Center in February also brought some problems.

Several people had to be treated by ambulance staff or taken to the hospital, police responded to more than two dozen incidents in or around the Alltel Center during the concert and Alltel security staff dealt with something they weren’t used to: a mosh pit full of bouncing, bumping and bashing fans.

It’s all expected to happen again soon, so a group has been formed to make sure everyone is prepared.

“I think we’re just trying to go in with our eyes wide open,” said Eric Jones, Alltel Center marketing manager. “We kind of had a debriefing meeting after the Feb. 13 show, what went well and what we could improve on. We want to stay on top of it, that’s really all it is. Ultimately, we want to protect the crowd from themselves.”

The group, which also includes representatives from Gold Cross Ambulance and Deputy Director of Police Services Matt Westermayer, has a few weeks to plan before Slipknot comes to Mankato May 13. Slipknot is expected to draw the same type of raucous fans the Buckcherry and Papa Roach concert did on Feb. 13.

As a safety precaution, that concert was general admission for the arena floor. There were no chairs on the floor because there were concerns fans would just move them aside or, worse, start throwing them around, Jones said.

A large amount of outside staff also was brought in, including 30 hired guards from Asia Security in the Twin Cities.

The Slipknot show will be the same, with general admission seats above the floor and standing only where the ice is during hockey games. There also will be a large number of security staff from both the Alltel Center and Asia Security.

“We do this with a lot of the larger events,” Westermayer said, adding that the Buckcherry show did keep the ambulance crews more busy than they expected. “Gold Cross had a lot of issues that would qualify as medical.”

One problem police officers and security staff dealt with was fans jumping from the seating section of the arena down to the floor. A 25-year-old man from Garrison was arrested by two police officers. He was seen jumping down, then attempted to run away.

Two women, both from the Mankato area, were cited by another officer and forced to leave the arena after they started fighting in the lobby.

In total, police officers reported a total of 26 incidents in and around the Civic Center between 7:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. the night of the Buckcherry concert.

Most of the incidents — including reports of assaults, disorderly conduct and intoxication — were resolved without police reports, citations or arrests.

The medical incidents included a report of a possible broken ankle, other injuries and people who were dehydrated.

If the Slipknot concert is as popular as the Buckcherry concert, Jones is hoping there will be more big-name hard rock bands coming to Mankato.

“We want to provide entertainment for everybody,” he said. “Hard rock is selling well in a tough economy.”

Westermayer said he just wants to make sure everyone stays safe and law abiding while they’re having fun. The meetings that will take place before Slipknot arrives should help, he said.

“We want to promote and preserve the public safety,” Westermayer said.