Behind the players, fans, media and VIPs, Chicago’s hosting of the recent NBA All Star Weekend included a special team of Level-1 players, but these players were not wearing shorts and team jerseys. These players were wearing navy polo shirts making sure the technology infrastructure and support needs of the numerous City-wide events all with global implications were met.
“Late in the fall of 2019, Level-1 received a call from the NBA because Level-1 came highly recommended by the Business Leadership Council (BLC) as a local company who could handle the technology needs for their signature events, which included multiple hotels, stadiums, arenas and public places,” said Thomas McElroy, President and CEO of Level-1 Global Solutions. “I realized very quickly this was going to require a whole new approach to our user support services which we’ve been providing in and to the City of Chicago and other state and local governments since one week after 9/11/2001 when technology and its resiliency, surveillance and network security suddenly became critical for high-profile clients.”
Planning for the public events took place in December even though the actual weekend was not until Feb. 14-16, and began with meetings with various NBA stakeholders. Elijah King, CTO from Level-1 met with all the NBA stakeholders, assessed the needs and mapped out our team placements for the various events. Denise Oliver, Level-1’s Project Management Director, added, “The NBA needed to ensure their secure network would function seamlessly at multiple locations throughout the City of Chicago to accommodate well over 500 NBA staff in addition to players, media, security, and even VIPs such as team owners, various celebrities and public officials.” Mr. McElroy added, “The NBA stressed that delays in service of any kind would be catastrophic and personally would be very embarrassing to both our firm and our city.”
The week before the event Mr. McElroy had a firm wide meeting with all hands and stressed that failure for this client was not an option, and that discretion was paramount. “I wanted our team to be focused on the job of providing only the best network and user support, and everyone in the room understood that. This wasn’t an opportunity to see your favorite player, celebrity or get a selfie, this was real serious work with worldwide implications for errors and everyone would be watching.”
Level-1 was tasked with set-up, support and disassembly for the NBA offices and venues in Chicago for the NBA All-Star Week. The team was responsible for supporting MS Windows, Mac IOS, local and network printing and cellphones. Other functions included placement and configuration of switches, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phones, various applications and the routing of data cables.
Level-1’s experience with various levels of law enforcement agencies and The Department of Homeland Security, CIA, DOD and the Department of State to name a few was also useful. Mr. McElroy said, “By virtue of our experiencing hosting the NATO Summit in 2012, I knew we needed to have an over-qualified crew to ensure success because of all the public safety, worldwide satellite broadcasting, physical and network security implications.”
The team coordinated with the information technology leadership of the NBA and the technology staff of the various locations including the Wintrust Arena, McCormick Place, United Center and Navy Pier. Ms. Oliver added, “The day before the games were to start team members were tasked with making sure crucial access points and switches at the United Center were working properly. This was the “main stage” for the All-Star Games and any interruption in connectivity would be disastrous. Our teams fanned out through the location in a proactive fashion identifying potential trouble spots that when discovered were addressed immediately. “We were so glad our team played a part in avoiding the potential of a disruption in a very high-profile global broadcasting situation.
When asked how much fun it was to participate in such a legendary sporting event, Mr. McElroy, an avid WNBA women’s basketball enthusiast himself, said, “There were a large numbers of events, parties, and celebrations I was invited to attend, and while it would have been great fun to participate in the fanfare, it was even more rewarding to see NBA All-star weekend conclude without incident and to be part of the magic of the success behind the scenes.”