A Hole in One for Memorial Park in Houston
Named for its previous service as a WWI military training facility, Houston’s Memorial Park is a 1,464.24-acre park, nearly double the size of New York City’s Central Park, that has become a flagship for the city.
Situated in the park is the Memorial Park Golf Course, one of the best municipal courses in the United States. Originally, a nine-hole sand course built in 1912, it was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2016. It was then expanded in 2019 under the direction of famed golf architect Tom Doak, with consultation from Brooks Koepka, into a 600 acre, 18-hole masterpiece.
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The course is now home to the Houston Open and is visited by more than 60,000 patrons each year. After an $18.5 million security renovation funded by the Astro’s Golf Foundation, the City of Houston’s premier golf course is open again for play and is the current host of the PGA Tour Houston Open. The remodeled golf course is only the second PGA-certified, municipally owned golf course in the country.
Staying on Course
In 2018, the Astros Golf Foundation took ownership of the PGA Tour with the objective of ensuring that the PGA Tour event remained in Houston. These objectives were met with an extensive renovation to Memorial Park Golf Course, completed in just two years.
As a heavily trafficked municipal park and high-profile golf course, the existing security measures were not up to par for what would be an important return of the PGA Houston Open Tour. The city now had new security concerns regarding the safety of players and spectators.
As a heavily trafficked municipal park and high-profile golf course, the existing security measures were not up to par.
The top priorities were to deter vehicle break-ins, discourage criminal mischief, and provide much needed overwatch during large, scaled events by deploying a new surveillance system that focused on the interior green space—as well as the exterior parking area.
Another security challenge was not having an easy way to notify golfers of park closures or weather alerts. To help solve these critical security issues, the city was prepared for a security upgrade and turned to their trusted security advisor, Teksys, to keep them on course.
Smart City Sandbox Helps Optimize Operations
As a smart city, Houston frequently hosts national and international events that are spread out over three or four different venues, so it’s a necessity to maximize workflow.
“We have been building our tech portfolio over the years,” says Jack C. Hanagriff, program manager at the City of Houston Office of Public Safety & Homeland Security. “As we’re working to host these events, we’ve found that we have to maximize our resources in order to keep the public safe in these ever-changing times.”
In 2017, the city hosted Superbowl LI and invited Milestone Systems to take part in the design of a supplemental camera system to be deployed during the event. Axis Communications provided a mixture of PTZ dome cameras, thermal cameras, and the Axis F series modular cameras. Houston also created the Houston Living Lab (HLL) to test technologies for Super Bowl LI before the event.
The HLL was so successful in helping the city test solutions that it was expanded and made permanent. Today, the HLL enables city entities to test public safety solutions while allowing technology partners to validate their technology in an active environment. It has become the model for other smart city initiatives implemented city-wide, including the Memorial Park security upgrade.
Technology Partnerships are Key to Success
For more than 11 years, Houston’s trusted security advisor, Teksys, has been responsible for optimizing the city-wide network and video management techniques. As Teksys and Houston’s relationship and responsibilities have expanded during the years, so have the technology integrations to improve public safety initiatives.
“The relationships built at the HLL were instrumental in helping us support the needs at other high-profile sites throughout the city like Memorial Park that were identified with concerns regarding general public safety,” Hanagriff says.
This includes the Houston Safe Park Program with deployment of public safety technology at Memorial Park Golf Course for the Houston Open and other sites throughout Houston.
Teksys handled the security upgrade for the 2020 Houston Open, which was the first Houston Open at Memorial Park since 1963. Without a solid security infrastructure in place at Memorial Park, the city relied on its strong partnerships forged at the HLL to determine which surveillance solutions would work best for this huge event.
Milestone’s XProtect Pro+ was selected because of its open VMS platform and ability to easily integrate with an unrestricted number of cameras. It also featured an alarm management system that worked well with the nine Axis Network Speaker Horns C3003-E installed to communicate with golfers and spectators if there were important weather alerts or park closures. The city wanted to be able to identify dangerous situations and be proactive to ensure year-round safety.
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Twelve Axis cameras were installed throughout the park and golf course. They included a mixture of the Q6155-E, Q1786-LE, P3717-PLE, and P3807-PVE cameras installed in ten locations. Four cameras were installed outside of the clubhouse covering the car and golf cart parking lot, one camera overlooked the driving range, and the rest were located at certain holes throughout the course. Verizon Wireless supplied the fiber poles for the Axis cameras, so now the city has a clear view 24/7 of this massive golf course and park.
Razberi products, a ComNet product line from ACRE, and a supplier of intelligent appliances built for the video surveillance market with a focus on cybersecurity, handled the installation of the main Razberi server/switch appliance inside the clubhouse at Memorial Park. Razberi products allow facilities to manage and secure video surveillance. The Razberi device was not only optimized and secured on the network, but reduced costs, time, and manpower required for network management.
“At ACRE, we ensure the entire experience is satisfying - it’s not just about selling product. It’s about creating a positive overall experience for our clients until the set-up is complete,” says E.N. Simon, Razberi products sales lead–Americas.
Meanwhile, Dell Technologies delivered innovative workstations that brought the technology to life by giving administrators the ability to review footage in real-time, right at their fingertips.
Within a year, the security upgrade project was completed and ready to be launched at the 2020 PGA Tour–Houston Open. With the help of its technology partners, the city was able to benefit from some of the latest security technologies and help improve safety at both the 2020 and 2021 events. More than 120 golfers competed in both tournaments, which were considered extremely successful.
Another security challenge was not having an easy way to notify golfers of park closures or weather alerts.
All monitoring at Memorial Park is being handled by the City of Houston and the park is patrolled daily by a combination of personnel from the Houston police department, urban park rangers, and an on-site security guard. The park is also utilizing license plate recognition to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the grounds.
“As we continue to work with the city on system maintenance for the golf course, we are proud of the teamwork that went into this security upgrade at Memorial Park,” says David Madrigal, senior engineer at Teksys. “The project was a huge success due to the collaboration of some of the best technology partners in the industry.”
Following Memorial Park’s Lead
The Houston Open is expected to remain at the Memorial Park Golf Course for the next three years. The city has built long-term relationships with stakeholders through the HLL and continues to maximize its resources to optimize processes and improve safety city-wide.
The Memorial Park Golf Course project was a perfect example of how the city leveraged its relationships to quickly improve security for one of the biggest golfing events in the nation. Future plans include adding video analytics to help analyze data more efficiently to ensure that the right decisions are made.
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The main lesson learned is that administrators should never take their eye off the ball when it comes to security. Protecting people and property should always be the main priority when assessing a current security system.
The City of Houston has raised the bar for smart cities everywhere on how to implement a successful security upgrade—one that goes beyond protecting its citizens and encompasses everything from weather alerts to spectator management and, eventually, to analyzing video data for optimal decision-making.
David Madrigal is the president of Teksys, Inc. He leverages many years of experience as a consultant working with clients to evaluate their existing technology needs and develop solutions to meet them while allowing flexibility to expand as requirements and budgets change.