Purdue students dissect IMS security gate delays

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Fan frustration spilled over Sunday outside the gates of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Slow-moving lines at the gates - delays caused by increased security checks - was at the root of the frustration, and now they're dissecting the problem at Purdue.

Grad student Hunter Musselman was part of a Homeland Security class that measured two things at IMS security gates: were security searches done properly, and how did race fans react?

"You can see the downward trend line here for the overall perceived customer service," says Musselman, pointing to a chart he prepared.

Fans who got in line for security checks late in the morning were most upset. "You can see the downward spikes in customer satisfaction," Musselman said. "Still, overall, it was 3.25 on a 4 scale," says Musselman.

At his gate, three out of four fans were happy, factored throughout the day.

"Somebody pulling in bottles, they were not happy. They had to get rid of those bottles," said Professor Eric Dietz. "If somebody was trying to bring in a big cooler, they were not happy."

And they were not happy if they had a long wait in the security line. IMS warned fans the checks would be more detailed, in light of the Boston bombing. Had they lined up earlier, delays could have been reduced.

"This is 8:50 in the morning," said Dietz, referring to a checkpoint photo taken by his students. "There was plenty of room. It was not necessarily congested yet."

We asked Dietz if the takeaway from the study could be that "track security will protect me, but I've got to get there early to make that possible". "It could be," Dietz said. "Especially if they're going to take bags and coolers."

The Purdue team was pleased with the thoroughness of inspections. The students even pitched in. "I did see one personally where a cooler was full of glass. A patron left it under a table. Kind of startled everybody," says the grad student.

The police were called in to handle the abandoned cooler.

There was concern over reports that, at some checkpoints around noon, careful checks stopped to allow fans faster entry into the track. "That's not the ideal situation," Dietz said. "(That's) not why all that security was put in the earlier part of the day."

The students will present their detailed findings to the IMS officials, who say they're already considering adding more security checkpoints and officers to speed security lines next year.