“Hunter” is a Belgian Malinois, an appropriate name considering his job is to hunt for bombs inside the Superdome. He starts early, around 7:00 am, spending hours sniffing locker rooms and secure areas. When the visiting team arrives, Hunter searches them too. He’s just one component in a comprehensive security team at the dome.
With 72,000 seats, Chief of Security Donald Paisant takes his job pretty seriously. When filled, the dome is essentially one big terrorist target. Paisant says, “It’s critical. It’s critical not only for our visiting teams, our fans, our employees and the integrity of our venue.”
He’s talking about the entire venue. 20 stories above the locker rooms, SMG Vice President Doug Thornton shows me around the command post, where news cameras have never gone before. Inside the sky box you’ll find a representative from each area of operations: fire, police, security, you name it. Thornton explains, “We have a totally integrated information system up here.”
Anywhere in the Superdome, you can bet you’re on TV. As you’re watching the field, there are about 144 different security cameras watching you. “From every vantage point in the Superdome and surrounding properties, we can see everything that goes on and comes in or out the building,” says Director of Event Services Farrow Bouton. Bouton is in charge of roughly 1,700 employees, including 350 security officers and 250 police. You’ll find them patting down guests, standing guard on the sidelines, even escorting V.I.P. guests like Tom Benson.
Bouton says, “Security is vital, particularly during the Saints game. It’s a number one priority for us and we spend an enormous amount of time planning and securing the building to make sure our fans are very safe.” When that safety is at risk, you can bet Bouton’s boys will be coming. The Superdome has its own central lock-up. We caught a few folks spending the game behind bars.
Every move is to ensure 72,000 fans are safe when cleats hit the grass and players take the turf. So, when you’re watching Gumbo or the Saintsations, you might take comfort in the fact that Superdome security is watching you.