By Randy Vogel, CFE
I HAVE BEEN A MEMBER OF IAVM for more
than 15 years. This Association has always been a valuable asset for my
professional growth and the venues that I have managed. However, the true
value of IAVM recently became apparent to me and every member that manages a
venue in the State of Arizona.
Several years ago when my wife and I visited Russia we
had the opportunity to experience the spectacular theaters of Moscow. We
went to the Kremlin Theater, the Tchaikovsky School of Music and the new
Bolshoi Theater. The venues are historic and majestic, but one of the
memories that stays on top of mind was the high level of security that we
experienced to enter the theaters. Patrons walked through magnetometers and
bags were searched, all under the watchful eye of an armed security team.
Initially, my wife, Marcelle, and I were surprised, but we understood,
especially in light of Russia’s persistent terrorism issues. Following
September 11, I thought that these security procedures might one day be a
part of the future for United States facilities; little did I know that
Arizona would be one of the states leading the charge.
In the wake of the Gabriella Gifford’s shooting in
Tucson, the state legislature sought to pass a bill called the Arizona
Firearms Omnibus Bill, aka SB 1201. The primary purpose of this piece of
legislation wasn’t about terrorism, but about expanding the Second Amendment
rights of gun owners. The philosophy of SB 1201 was very different than the
standard security operational procedures that venues put in place for higher
risk events. If passed in its original form, SB 1201 would have required all
government owned public facilities, whether managed as a part of a
government subdivision or under a contract management arrangement, to ensure
the safety of all patrons by permitting patrons to carry guns into all
events or require venue management to modify security procedures to
guarantee that no guns were in the venue.
By law this would have required a venue to have airport
type security: magnetometers, armed security and gun lockers at every
entrance regardless of the type of activity or event being held. And, if a
venue held a liquor license there was no option, the venue would be required
to use airport type security at all times. Overnight, the bill would have
changed the entire dynamic of the patron experience and event operation of
every public facility in the state. Imagine coming to VenueConnect this
summer in Phoenix and being dragged through the security experience every
time you entered the Phoenix Convention Center. At Mesa Arts Center alone we
determined that the financial impact on operations could have been in excess
of $500,000 per year.
If you wondered about the value of having chapter
meetings, SB 1201 will serve as an example of industry communication in
action. As managers we first discussed the impact that SB 1201 could have at
our February chapter meeting.
Because of that chapter meeting, local members of IAVM,
the World Headquarters staff, IAVM general counsel and lobbyist Turner
Madden, and the Industry Affairs Council determined that we needed to
actively educate and advocate. A series of conference calls were held, we
communicated to our fellow IAVM members and developed an advocacy plan.
A challenge for most of us affected by the bill was
that as public employees we could not address this issue on behalf of our
venues. However, we could address the issue as members of IAVM. As an
association we met with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and actively lobbied
local politicians. Additionally, Turner Madden came to the Valley and met
with local politicians and organizations. This advocacy and the additional
work of the local professional sports teams ensured that we were heard.
Exclusions were written into the bill to exempt public facilities from the
proposed law. The irony of SB 1201 was that ultimately and surprisingly
Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. However, the official statement from
Governor Brewer’s office is that the veto was not because of her dislike of
the content but about wanting a better written bill. It is highly possible
that similar legislation will come back next year.
The issue isn’t about whether we agree about the Second
Amendment. As an industry, we are concerned about educating lawmakers on the
operational impact of such laws, especially with venues that were not
designed and constructed to accommodate that type of security process.
For a moment let’s assume that such a law is enacted.
Who will fund this mandate? This could add as much as $5 per ticket. What is
the impact to our business? A national convention will not be willing to
subject their attendees to this type of evasive security. March is Major
League Baseball spring training — could you imagine the impact that this
could have on tourism and retaining teams that are constantly being
contacted about going to Florida? And lastly, what inconvenience should the
public be subjected to in order to guarantee their ability to carry fi
rearms into public places? I am somewhat amused with the thought of a
wedding party going through magnetometers.
So what does all of this mean? Now more than ever IAVM
is important. We need to continue to lobby. SB 1201 or something like it
will be back. On a recent Crowd Management conference call we discussed that
other states have been looking at laws like the one Arizona proposed. As an
organization we need to be prepared to educate and advocate regarding the
impact of such laws on our industry.
Randy Vogel, CFE, is director-theaters and
operations of the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona. Contact him at