Penn State

How do Penn State venues make security a priority?

Beaver Stadium hosted the Happy Valley Jam concert in July.
Beaver Stadium hosted the Happy Valley Jam concert in July. Centre Daily Times, file

A packed crowd of country music fans is excited to see a top act. And then everything goes wrong.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas was thousands of miles away from central Pennsylvania, but what brought everyone together was the same kind of thing that could have happened in Centre County anytime.

The Bryce Jordan Center is a major concert venue in Pennsylvania, frequently playing host to big names. Jason Aldean, the hot star on the stage when police say Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, has been on that stage multiple times. Some of the biggest names in country, rock and pop have come to town over the past 20 years.

Centre County might not be a big population center, but Beaver Stadium is the second largest stadium in the country, capable of hosting crowds of more than 107,000 — and that’s just inside the gates.

Many more gather to celebrate game day outside, famously making the State College area the third largest city in Pennsylvania for a few Saturdays a year.

But a lot has changed over the years as security becomes more and more of a concern nationwide.

Go to a concert at the BJC and you don’t get far before signs or staff remind you to leave your purse or other baggage in the car.

Go to a game, and rules are strictly enforced about bringing nothing larger than a gallon-size Ziploc bag, and even that clear plastic container is inspected. The bag policy states three separate times that no backpacks are permitted, but neither are purses, fanny packs, diaper bags, camera bags or “any other bags.”

“The Jordan Center makes patron safety a top priority. We have recently and will continue to modify our security measures, like additional security cameras, specific training to all staff and increased communication with our law enforcement community. While these measures may seem an inconvenience to some, the overall objective is for everyone’s safety,” said spokesman Bernie Punt.

The stadium is overseen by Penn State Athletics.

“The safety and security of fans, teams and facility personnel is a top priority at all our athletic venues. We are constantly evaluating and revising our security measures for all our facilities and events,” said associate athletic director for strategic communications Jeff Nelson. “We have a comprehensive security plan in place and have consistent dialogue and collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement to provide a safe experience for our fans and teams.”

Penn State has been the scene of a shooting, but on a much smaller scale than Las Vegas.

In September 1996, Jillian Robbins opened fire from a position on the HUB lawn, killing Melanie Spalla, 21, injuring Nicholas Mensah and stabbing at Brendon Malovrh when he tried to subdue her, ultimately slashing her own leg and surviving because Malovrh used his own belt to stop the bleeding.

She is 21 years into a 30- to 60-year sentence at Muncy state prison.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce