Harrison County

Tightened security at Coast Coliseum means you’ll have to buy a clear bag come January

Country music star Toby Keith performs at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi to a crowd of approximately 7,000 fans. More security cameras and metal detectors will be installed to beef up security at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center
Country music star Toby Keith performs at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi to a crowd of approximately 7,000 fans. More security cameras and metal detectors will be installed to beef up security at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center Sun Herald file

Terrorism can happen in South Mississippi as it has in Las Vegas and locations across the world, so security is getting more intense to protect those attending a concert or conference at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

The Coliseum Commission on Tuesday voted to buy metal detectors and cameras. Matt McDonnell, executive director of the Coliseum and Convention Center, said they could be in place by December.

“It’s now the rule and not the exception,” he said, for stadiums, arenas, concert halls and convention facilities to take the necessary precautions to protect the people coming to their venues.

In Biloxi, that means installing 30 percent more video cameras equipped with more memory that allows security staff to go back over a longer period of time to recover the footage.

It also means everyone coming to an event will be required to step through one of about a dozen metal detectors that will be ordered, with another six hand-held scanners used for more detailed screening. The scanners will be portable so they can be moved to where they are needed, he said.

“We’ll be setting up the walk-throughs for all public consumer shows, trade shows and ticketed events,” McDonnell said.

New signs will explain the protocol, including the requirement that purses and bags carried onto the property during an event be clear. McDonnell said he checked, and a lot of stores sell the clear bags as more venues require them.

The requirement for clear bags will go into effect by Jan. 1, he said.

It’s all to make sure the patrons are safe, he said, and to let them know everyone around them has gone through the same screening.

These security measures aren’t just in response to the attack at a concert Oct. 1 in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured more than 500.

“We’d already gotten quotes and were looking at different scanners and cameras back in the springtime,” McDonnell said.

But the attack may have helped the commission get the money to buy the equipment.

McDonnell said state representatives Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, and Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, secured the funds.

DeLano said he and Bennett helped the commission get funding for improvements in anticipation of the Popp’s Ferry extension that will connect the road past the Coliseum and to U.S. 90 at the beach. That project hasn’t moved forward to where the funds were needed this year and Mississippi Development Authority agreed to divert $65,000 to pay for the security equipment, he said.

“There’s always going to be something out there you can’t prepare for,” McDonnell said, but with this equipment the commission is continuing to provide the latest security procedures to keep people safe.

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