Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers are watching you

New stadium equipped with high-tech cameras

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The turf will not be the only part of Investors Group Field that will be filmed this inaugural season from every angle and using all the latest state-of-the-art camera technology.

A total of 55 cameras -- including four with technology so sophisticated it will allow security to zoom in on an item an individual fan is holding -- will watch over the stands, concourse and parking lots when the new stadium unofficially opens later this month.

Kelly Keith, the head of security for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, said Wednesday the cameras will watch over all aspects of the stadium and be monitored by security and Winnipeg police from a central command centre during Bombers games, concerts and other events.

"It's an extremely valuable tool," said Keith. "If we've got a problem section where people are getting rowdy or something, we can key right in on that section and that's our evidence right there.

"Outside alcohol... people smoking... even fights or anything like that, now we've got the ability to have that on tape. Everything is enhanced with that."

Keith said sophisticated camera technology is a part of all new sports facilities now.

"They have it at True North, too," said Keith.

Fans at Winnipeg Jets games are on camera virtually the entire time they're at the MTS Centre.

"We have cameras located all over MTS Centre, both on concourse and arena bowl and event level. Tough not to be seen by security," Jets spokesman Scott Brown said in an email Wednesday.

What will be a little different in the new stadium is the mind-bogglingly advanced level of zoom technology the Bombers will have at their disposal, particularly with four PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras they've installed.

"These cameras can zero right in. If you're sitting in any seat in the stadium, I could tell you the brand of pop you're drinking or things like that," said Keith.

"They're up in the far corners of the stadium, but at the end of the day, I could turn them around and point them at the parking lot and I could read your (licence) plate."

The idea of an eye in the sky watching your every move at a football game will be disconcerting to some -- particularly in a city that has shown itself in the past year resistant to efforts by the Bombers to beef up their game-day security as they prepared to move into the new stadium.

But the reality -- as was much in evidence during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings -- is we increasingly live in a society where our public lives are being filmed in some fashion almost all the time anyway.

From the red-light cameras throughout Winnipeg to surveillance cameras outside private homes and businesses to even the installation of 10 Winnipeg police cameras that were approved in 2011 for high-crime areas, you'd best be camera-ready the moment you step out the door.

Keith said the cameras at Investors Group Field will be recording at all times during events. He said the team will not hesitate to share with police recorded video of any illegal activity its cameras catch.

"Absolutely, yeah. One hundred per cent," said Keith. "At all games, we actually have what we call the command centre. We have the police, someone from our staff, someone from the St. John's Ambulance staff -- we're all there all the time.

"So (the police) are right by the cameras. If something's going down, the police have access right there."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2013 A3

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