Public Safety Officials Look to Improve Traffic Flow, Reduce Custodies at 2013 Country Fest
Foxborough public safety officials are working with Gillette Stadium management on several initiatives to improve crowd safety and the overall impact Country Fest has on the community.
Editor's note: This is part I of a two-part series that looks into the public safety planning for the 2013 New England Country Music Festival, which will be held at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 23 and 24. Part II will take a closer look at traffic issues from the two-day music festival.
Last summer, Foxborough Police made over 100 arrests and reported over 600 incidents over a two-day span during the 2012 New England Country Music Festival at Gillette Stadium.
Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary told reporters after the weekend concert series that better preparation led to the 102 arrests and over 500 protective custodies out of a crowd of 103,000 concertgoers that descended on Foxborough for the two-day music festival.
“We had a plan, it was carried out the way we envisioned it and resulted in people who were dealing in unsafe behavior being separated from those that were there just to enjoy the show," O'Leary told reporters in August. “[We] knew what was coming and we wanted to have a system to deal with a mass arrest situation where we have officers in the field intervening activities and parties to try and reduce the incidents, especially of underage drinking.”
In November, Gillette Stadium announced Kenny Chesney would be returning to Foxborough for the 10th annual New England Country Music Festival this summer. Town departments and public safety officials met with the Stadium Advisory Committee to review the application for the Aug. 23-24 concerts and begin planning for ways to improve public safety and the event’s impact on the community in 2013.
O’Leary said in a letter to the Foxborough Board of Selectmen that crowd management issues at these concerts “are extremely difficult due to the very active fans” and that this is compounded by having two shows on successive days.
O’Leary told selectmen that several initiatives have been established for the 2013 shows through discussions with Gillette Stadium management. The following initiatives “should mitigate the impact” on the Foxborough community, according to O’Leary:
“The show will be shorter in terms of the number of acts performing,” O’Leary said. “Crowd size at each show (tickets available) is being reduced by .075 percent, with an attendance cap at 50,000.”
In addition, Gillette Stadium will have a consultant review the parking lot behaviors demonstrated by fans and provide suggestions to improve security and policing operations during these events, according to O’Leary.
“Several of my staff will travel to other stadiums to preview the event and consult with police agencies to see what strategies are being used in crowd management,” O’Leary said.
The goal for the 2013 music festival, according to Stadium Advisory Committee chair George Bell, is to “lower the arrests and custodies by delaying the event start time, either by reducing the number of acts or shortening each act, thus reducing the amount of time allowed for tailgating.”
Gillette Stadium management leader Dan Murphy told Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen last week the company has reduced the crowd size for each show from 57,000 last year to 50,000 this summer to assist public safety in their coverage of the events. Concerts will consist of four acts (Chesney, Eric Church, Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves) and will begin at 5:30 or 6 p.m. Concerts began at 4:30 p.m. last summer.
“These [initiatives] are balanced by the need to open the Gillette Stadium parking lots to keep traffic on local Foxborough and Walpole roadways flowing,” Bell said in a letter to selectmen.
The town and Foxborough police were accused of improper use of protective custody at last summer's Bruce Springsteen show and now face a class action lawsuit. Despite the legal cloud hanging over the town's law enforcement practices for concerts, police are expected to continue to build on previous plans for the two-day events at Gillette Stadium this summer.
Bell said in a letter to selectmen that, “custodies are primarily the result of the overindulgence of alcohol as some attendees who arrive early, with the intent of congregating in the stadium lots for a long day and evening of partying.”
The plan includes:
- Delayed lot openings to help reduce excessive consumption of alcohol. Exact lot opening times will be coordinated with Chief O’Leary based on monitoring of traffic through the downtown Foxborough area as well as South Washington Street in Walpole. The Putnam Way North Street entrance will be used for club members, town public safety officials and SAC attendees.
- The expanded booking lockup areas adjacent to the current stadium security center as well as the town’s public safety building.
- Continued use of portable breathalyzers at entrances specially SW Bank of America Gate, to confirm incapacitated behavior.
Bell said Gillette Stadium personnel will coordinate e-mail communication to all ticket purchasers; radio public service spots by Chesney and signage upon entry to communicate important event policies, including:
- Routes 495, 95 and Route 1 as primary travel routes
- Lot opening times
- Act and drink responsibly
- No underage drinking tolerated
- No ticket, no entry
Once again, only hard copy, state of the art, tickets will be issued to avoid counterfeiting. All concertgoers must show tickets upon entry into each parking lot.
O’Leary will also be hiring a consultant paid for by Gillette Stadium with expertise in tailgating and crowd control to review final football events and concerts during the 2013 season to work out strategies, make recommendations to Gillette Stadium and town officials as well as train police and stadium personnel.
Additionally, O’Leary addressed the concerns of Walpole officials that parking lots must be opened earlier to avoid traffic gridlock on Route 1 and neighborhood roads in the area.
“Certainly one of the major issues that came from this past year’s event was the impact again of traffic in Walpole,” O’Leary said. “[Walpole’s] public safety persons have participated in our all agencies meetings prior to events and try to find the correct balance that gives a free flow of traffic without impediment in surrounding neighborhoods not just on Route 1 but 1A and other streets in the community.”
O’Leary stressed the need to find the right balance between opening the lots too early and creating dangerous traffic conditions.
“Balance between opening too early, which creates other public safety hazards and getting traffic in off the road, which relieves certain impediments [is critical],” O’Leary said. “It’s a work in progress. We will continue to measure it so that we can adequately solve both needs in terms of our neighbors, residents as well as the safety of fans coming.”
The fire department will staff the event and provide portable emergency tent stations as determined by Fire Chief Roger Hatfield after consulting with his department and stadium officials. The stadium will in turn be working with the fire department to find a new medical treatment area.
Foxborough’s Board of Health officials will be working with stadium personnel to coordinate the following:
- Increased placement of Port-a-Johns in the more remote parking lot areas and adjacent to the field by the Hall of Fame concourse area.
- Mist tents will be installed as needed based on anticipated weather conditions.
Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the application for the 2013 New England Country Music Festival under the following conditions:
Application be approved, subject to the following conditions:
- Applicant shall within 30 days of approval (Feb. 15) execute and provide indemnification agreement.
- Obtain and place liability insurance for said events, insuring both the applicant and the town of Foxborough
License for the two-day concert shall be retained by the board and/or its representative and be held in escrow pending applicant’s compliance with conditions one and two above.
Selectmen will also review the event’s plans one month prior to the concert.
To read more about this summer’s Country Music Festival, click here.