Colleges & Universities: How to Manage Crowds

A quick and easy guide from a crowd management expert at SONCO.

Campus safety is a huge part of managing a student body, and the key to the most successful crowd management application is preparation. When you know what to expect and consider the potential unexpected scenarios, you can identify both the right equipment and the right quantity of equipment. Here are some key considerations to keep your campus safe and organized for the long-term.

School Crowd Control: Barricades vs. Stanchions

barricades or stanchions for school crowd control

Considering the fact that the largest sporting arenas in the country host college athletics, many Division 1 schools will need to treat their crowd management style as if they’re a professional sports team – or more so. In fact, the top 15 largest sports arenas by capacity are all NCAA schools.

When you’re a Division 1 program, barricades will be a necessity. Outside, thousands of people will need to be directed to the entry points, and the denser the crowd, the stronger the barrier needs to be. Barricades can hold their own under heavy-duty crowd control applications. For example, the NYPD utilizes our barricades for their annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square.

The problem with stanchions is that they can go unnoticed if the crowd is too large. If barricades aren’t noticed, they’ll still get the job done, even if you’re experiencing record attendance. However, if someone undoes the retractable belt of a stanchion, it becomes nothing but a post, which does nothing for crowd management.

With that being said, it’s poor practice to have equipment that’s over the top. Barricades for light crowd control applications are cumbersome, unnecessary, and an unneeded financial investment. For a Division 3 athletic event, for example, stanchions will do just fine. For a Division 1 football game, barricades are needed to avoid injury and, let’s be honest, total chaos.

Interior vs. Exterior Crowd Management

Stanchions for University Crowd Control

Barricades do a great job of creating a perimeter security line at all points of entry. But what about the inside? You have lines to concessions, some areas may be temporarily off-limits, you have merch tables, games, raffles, and beyond. This is where stanchions are essential for larger venues, but likely unnecessary for smaller facilities. 

A good rule of thumb: if your concession stands feature more than two cashiers, you probably need stanchions.

It’s not just for the convenience of guests – an organized queue creates a faster turnaround, getting you more money and minimizing the likelihood of someone stepping out of line.

Custom Signage for Campus Crowd Management

Custom signage for schools crowd management

Another thing you should consider having in your crowd management toolbelt is custom signage. When people can see where the food and drink, bathrooms, merchandise, and games are located without asking an employee, the more organized, safer, and productive your venue. Our feather and teardrop signs do exactly that with photo-quality images and messaging that keep the crowds moving.

Further, barricade lines on the outside of your venue make for great advertising space. Whether teasing the upcoming season, creating a thrilling atmosphere outside and in, or generating sponsorship revenue, barricade covers can go a long way.

One School, Multiple Programs

Your football program might play in an enormous arena – while your baseball team has a far lower attendance average or capacity. Each of the areas that require crowd control products will need to be analyzed individually to ensure you’re following best practices specific to the individual venues. As mentioned above, using barricades where stanchions would make more sense is poor practice, while using stanchions where you need barricades is downright dangerous.

Special Events

If you’re looking for crowd control tips for your college or university, there’s a good chance you’re hosting more than just sporting events. From alumni gatherings to fundraisers to academic competitions to keynote speakers to concerts and beyond, a well-stocked storage space of crowd control equipment can be a game-changer. 

You’ve likely relied on rental services in the past, and that can be a great choice if you hold events here and there. But if you, like many campuses, host things year-round, investing in your own equipment can save you thousands in the long-run. At SONCO, we pride ourselves on offering products that last for years of constant use in any weather, both outside and in. 

Do a price point analysis, and see if buying is the better choice over regularly renting. There’s a good chance that it is.

Other Considerations

No matter how much was allocated to your budget, you’ll have limitations, and you likely have little in the way of wiggle room. That’s why it’s important to weigh your crowd management wants versus your needs – and look at everything in terms of the bigger picture.

  • ZONING COMPLIANCE: Your area likely has specific requirements that apply to your venue’s capacity. At the bare minimum, your crowd control products need to be up to the standards of your local government’s licensing compliance.
  • STORAGE SPACE: If you have nowhere to put your equipment, you might be forced to rent. And that’s okay. It’s better to know that ahead of time than invest in all that equipment, use it all successfully during an event, and then go into panic mode when you realize you need to rent out storage space that puts you over budget.
  • BUDGET: The ultimate limitation of them all. When you’re working within a tight budget, it’s important to focus on the bare minimum and work your way up from there. While we offer the SONCO Apruve line of credit to get clients up to $100k and Net 30 terms on all purchases, that might not be an option either. Safety comes first, then productivity, then aesthetics. (And while the second and third are interchangeable, safety always comes first.)

Team Up with an Expert

SONCO Barriers at MetLife Stadium for events crowd management
SONCO barricades used at MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

If everyone were crowd control and perimeter security experts, I and everyone I work with would be out of jobs. Besides, your job is hard enough as it is! Make it easier—and guarantee that you’re getting the right products specific to your needs and within your budget—by consulting with an expert. The team at SONCO is available with free, no-obligation, proven advice via phone, online chat, or email.