ATLANTIC CITY — Warped Tour’s 25th-anniversary festival, a two-day, sold-out celebration of the punk-rock ethos, is expected to bring about 30,000 ticket holders to the beach and thousands more to the Boardwalk this weekend.
The city is no stranger to beach concerts, hosting dozens of acts and thousands of fans over the past five years. But with Warped Tour doubling the beach space used and filling it with skate ramps, motocross and even a human cannonball, officials are gearing up for new challenges.
“The biggest thing this year is the footprint of the venue is actually a lot bigger. It’s the biggest that we’ve ever had in Atlantic City,” said police Capt. Robert Campbell, the department’s incident commander for the concert. “That obviously brought some more security issues that we had to readjust our assets for, and I think we’re well prepared in the event there is an emergency.”
Instead of starting at the pier on Arkansas Avenue and ending before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the venue space will extend about three more blocks to Central Pier.
The city’s police and fire departments, medical providers and Beach Patrol are teaming up with county, state and federal agencies and Live Nation event coordinators to cover the larger area.
Representatives from the agencies have met at least once a month since February and weekly since late May to review past concert procedures and train for new scenarios.
“We’ve been planning for this for months now,” said Lt. Dean Dooley, the operations chief for the concert. “Now, you’re just at the point where it’s go time basically.”
The agencies performed four “tabletop” scenarios earlier this month meant to prepare officials for large-scale, worst-case situations. Police, firefighters and medical officials ran through simulations that included a stage collapse, a fire and an active shooter.
“Everybody has a job to do to make everything more seamless,” Campbell said.
Campbell, who will be stationed inside the Public Safety Building’s Emergency Operations Command Center along with other public safety department heads, said the event will be heavily monitored by video surveillance, including the department’s Skywatch tower and the Boardwalk’s cameras.
When it comes to extreme sports such as wrestling, skating and motocross, Campbell could not specify what kind of police presence will be there, but said they will have additional assets in those areas.
There also will be four medical stations on the beach.
Officials also will be monitoring more of the water.
“This one is going to be an open venue all the way through, so for us personnel-wise and deployment-wise it’s going to be a lot different than what we’re used to,” Atlantic City Beach Patrol Chief Steve Downey said. “There will be swimming basically at every single beach, which has not been the case in the past.”
Downey said the venue, which spreads through the Beach Patrol’s busiest sections, will get two more lifeguard stands and double the number of lifeguards.
Ten stands will be evenly spaced across the beaches, and about 40 to 50 lifeguards will be stationed there. Swimming will be allowed from when concert doors open about 11 a.m. until about 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Beach Patrol personnel will remain available until 11 p.m.
Personnel also will be stationed around both piers starting at 6 a.m. each morning as crowds are expected to line up at the entrances about 8 a.m.
A marine police boat will be stationed in the water to monitor for boats that pull too close to the beach, which has been a problem during previous concerts.
Lifeguards will do their best to keep swimmers away from obstructions and will whistle them away from dangerous objects such as the rock pile and pipe on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“We’ve had I think one water rescue in all the years, but I think a lot of that has to do with that it’s all centered right here, which is a relatively easy beach not near any obstructions,” Downey said, pointing to the Arkansas Avenue beach.
Downey advised that all swimmers keep clear of any rock piles, jetties or piers.
“Basically just please listen to us,” Downey said. “We’re there to watch you and we’re not going to deter you from having a good time, but be smart.”