How safe do you feel going to a concert at a major venue? After Manchester, some people are likely to think twice. DW spoke with the head of Germany’s largest concert and sports venue to get a safety report.In the wake of the terror attack on the Manchester Arena, security at large-scale venues is once again an issues of concern. The Lanxess Arena in Cologne is the largest multipurpose venue in Germany and can hold nearly 20,000 spectators. It regularly hosts major sport events, concerts and other shows, welcoming some 1.4 million visitors per year. Lanxess director Stefan Löcher told DW how his venue approaches safety.
DW: Mr. Löcher, how does the latent danger of a terror attack on venues like the Bataclan in Paris or now the Manchester Arena make you feel personally?
Stefan Löcher: I am totally shocked, since Ariana Grande draws a huge fan base of teenagers. That makes the whole thing even more tragic. Ariana Grande has also performed in our venue. Unfortunately, it’s the case in this world that these things will happen. This time, an arena was the target – and that is very depressing.
As the head of Germany’s largest multipurpose arena, how have you been sleeping these days?
It varies. But the threat of terror is not the only reason. There are many challenges associated with a multipurpose arena. The safety of the guests has always been an important issue, but terror has become a bigger concern over the past two to three years.
After the attack on the Bataclan in Paris in November 2015, you told DW in an interview that it’s impossible to prevent an attack with 100-percent certainty. Is that still the case?
That is still the case, but we work very closely and consistently with the police in order to estimate the danger.
How has the Lanxess Arena’s security strategy changed since the terror attacks in Paris?
What we’ve done is added turnstiles to the entrances so that the flow of guests can be better kept under control. First we do pat-downs, but we don’t do thorough pat-downs on every single person at every concert – I don’t think any other venue in Germany does either. We do random checks which become more thorough according to the threat level – and we do have concerts where we pat down 100 percent of the guests as well.
What we always do is bag checks 100 percent of the time. We have also banned bags that are larger than the size of a notebook. Bags that are allowed in are checked.
That’s the main thing that has changed in the past few years. Of course we have also upped our security in the backstage area – not only to protect the artists but also because there are many doors and entrance possibilities back there. Security there has also been boosted in order to prevent unauthorized entry.
You just hosted a major event in the Lanxess Area – the Ice Hockey World Championship. Which security measures were taken during the event?
During major events like the Ice Hockey World Championship, we had more police on site, both in the arena and around it. What we have also done on occasion, according to the threat situation, was to bring in bomb tracking dogs. It’s about speed. Booking the dogs has the advantage that they are already on site if a dangerous object is later found. We did that during the Ice Hockey World Cup.
How do you protect the area around the arena?
That’s where 100-percent safety cannot be ensured. How far should the radius beyond an arena extend? Theoretically, it would have to stretch for up to a kilometer because after a concert with 18,000 visitors you have crowds of people everywhere – at the tram stations, on the ramps that lead away from the arena. That cannot be 100-percent protected.
Are there general standards for venues in Germany? And do you discuss security issues with other venues?
Yes, we hold very regular discussions. And that has resulted in the measures I mentioned becoming standard in practically all arenas. Some arenas have become pioneers in using metal detectors. That is the next level, which we are currently reviewing, in order to make things even safer.