About 7,500 Foo Fighters concertgoers filed through metal detectors at MetraPark on Saturday, ushering in a new level of security.
For the first time at MetraPark, staff used the metal detectors as part of beefed up security for the internationally known, Grammy Award-winning rock band.
“It was an order” from the band, said Bill Dutcher, MetraPark’s general manager, Tuesday at a Yellowstone County commissioner meeting.
Three weeks before the Dec. 9 concert at the Rimrock Auto Arena, the band requested the magnetometers, Dutcher said. MetraPark bought a dozen of the devices for about $50,000 with emergency funding. “They will be used again,” he added.
The band was happy. “Everything went exactly the way they wanted it to go,” Dutcher said.
MetraPark used all of the machines, which were stationed in the front, back and sides of the arena, Dutcher said. And everyone, including all MetraPark staff, had to walk through them.
While some fans waited in line more than an hour to get through the screening, by 7:30 p.m., when the opening act began, the "vast majority" of people were in, said Sue DeVries, assistant general manager.
DeVries reported getting only one complaint from someone who had waited almost an hour. A scan of that person's ticket showed entry at 7:32 p.m., she said.
There may have been a misconception that when MetraPark said doors would open at 6 p.m., that people would get in at 6 p.m., DeVries said. People entered in the order in which they arrived, and people arrived early, she said.
The Foo Fighters also wanted an extensive bag search and didn't want anything to go wrong, DeVries said.
MetraPark had a "no bag" entry on the east side of the arena to expedite entry. DeVries said she would question whether people in that line waited the longest, but said it could have attracted more people who didn't have bags.
DeVries also didn't know whether the wait would have been significantly shorter without the magnetometers, saying MetraPark previously has used wands.
The whole process with the magnetomoeters is new, DeVries said, adding that there are changes MetraPark can make to speed up the process. More managers to work with the lines and having another no bag entry would help, she said.
DeVries said it was hard to know how often the walk-through machines would be used in the future but that any major act at the arena will likely want them.
Such security steps are being taken across the country, and Montana is probably one of the last states to use them, DeVries said.
Walk-though detectors are part of new level of security in the aftermath of the mass-shooting at an outdoor country concert on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, DeVries said.
MetraPark also had additional security officers at the concert and a bomb-sniffing dog from Colorado, at the band's request, she said.
"The best thing people can do is to be there on time and to bring your patience," DeVries said.
MetraPark gave fans advance notice about the new security measures and said the doors would open at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show.
“We want the fans that come in the arena to feel safe,” DeVries said.
The Foo Fighters drew about 7,500 people to the concert. The show was the first time the band has performed in Billings and was the band's only Montana stop on its tour.
MetraPark will “probably break even” on the show, DeVries said. MetraPark used some of its own money, in its co-promote fund, to help bring the concert to Billings.