Facebook Twitter

Tight security is sure shot at ice arena

SHARE Tight security is sure shot at ice arena

PROVO ? The perimeter is fenced off and patrolled by military personnel carrying semiautomatic rifles. There's a metal detector at the entrance and a command post inside teeming with law-enforcement officers from across the country.

Sound like a military base or a prison? It's neither. It's the Peaks Ice Arena during the Olympics.

Security at the Peaks will be so comprehensive, the person sitting next to you during one of the hockey games could be a Secret Service agent.

All of which should make spectators feel safe, not uncomfortable, says Provo Police Lt. Greg DuVal, venue commander for the Peaks.

Since Labor Day, DuVal has worked with federal and state agencies to prepare the Peaks for the Games. The facility is nearly ready, he says, and will close briefly a few days before the opening ceremonies for a final security sweep.

Nearly half of Provo's police force is assigned to patrol the Peaks during the Olympics, as well as police officers from Orem, the Utah County Sheriff's Office and federal and state agencies outside Utah.

DuVal says the security presence at this year's Olympics will be more evident than at the Sydney Games, but plans for security at Olympic venues like the Peaks are years in the making. He said the attack of Sept. 11 "only added layers" to what was already planned.

"It's hard to predict what will happen because we've never had an event like this, but I'm very confident in our abilities," Chief Greg Cooper said.

While no amount of planning can prevent an accident or crime, DuVal hopes the security buildup for the Olympics prevents a catastrophic event. He thinks the visible security force at the Peaks will discourage would-be terrorists or troublemakers.

Portions of roads leading directly to the Peaks will be closed, and security officers will carefully screen and possibly search those vehicles allowed to drive up to the facility.

Firearms will not be permitted inside the building, even for off-duty police officers and those with concealed weapons permits. DuVal said anyone found carrying a gun, even legally, will be denied admission. There will be no locker for guns at the Peaks.

DuVal said uniformed police officers and some military personnel will patrol the inside of the building from guard posts that are easy to identify. Security won't be as intensive at Provo's cultural Olympiad event, an international ice carving competition. Spectators to this free event, held on the grounds of the Utah County Courthouse, will not have to pass through a metal detector or have their bags checked.

Police will patrol the area heavily with dogs and surveillance cameras, as well as patrolling the winter village across the street at Tabernacle Park. The eastbound lane on University Avenue from Center Street to 100 West will be closed during the event, and the westbound lane will be closed after 3 p.m.

Because parking will be limited in the downtown area, police recommend that those who want to watch the ice carving competition or visit the winter village park at the Provo Towne Centre mall and take a free shuttle.

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com