Florida hosted its first big-name opponent of the season on Monday when Florida State came to the O’Connell Center.
An announced crowd of 10,425 attended the game between state rivals. But at tipoff, the arena was barely three-quarters full. The reason? It was UF’s first big crowd in the building going through metal detectors, which were installed in the building in August to ensure fan and player safety. Long lines extended into the O’Connell Center parking lot 15 minutes before the start of the game.
“We’ve been getting a few complaints,” said David Lucier, the O’Connell Center’s associate director of facilities. “The main thing we’re trying to do is continue to create awareness, telling fans to arrive early. There are more metal detectors at Gate 1 than the other three gates, so we’re trying to direct fans there. You only need to remove large items, cell phones, keys, cameras and hats. Bags need to be checked.”
There are currently 12 metal detectors at the four O’Connell Center fan gates — seven in Gate 1, three in Gate 3 (the student gate) and one each in Gate 2 and Gate 4. The metal detectors are being used for all events in the building, not just for Florida athletic events.
Lucier said there were no specific incidents that prompted the installation of metal directors.
“It’s really more getting in line with the industry,” Lucier said. “There are so many arenas around the country now installing metal detectors because safety and security is so important.”
An average walk-though metal detector costs between $4000 to $5000. Asked if the O’Connell Center would consider adding more metal detectors if long lines persist, Lucier responded: “It’s a significant financial commitment, but yes, it would be something we would consider if we needed to enhance the fan experience.”