It’s OK, because he had 10,000 screaming fans to keep him awake.
Chances are if you’ve been to the BancorpSouth Arena, you’ve seen security in the crowd in “Event Staff” T-shirts. Sansone is head of security and is tasked with making sure the performers and fans all have a safe time.
Sansone, 41, grew up in Tupelo and graduated with the Tupelo High School Class of 1989. He now lives in Plantersville with wife Vanessa, 10-year-old daughter Skylar, and 18-year-old son Mark.
During the day, Sansone works at MTD. He’s been there for 14 years and is a warehouse lead. However, most people will recognize him for his work at the arena.
Sansone started working with the arena when it first opened in 1993. He took an 11-year break for military service where he was a tank mechanic and then a tank crewman. He came back to the arena around 1999 and became head of security in 2006.
“I couldn’t ask for a better job. I love my job,” he said of rallying his group of 58 security staff for events. “I wouldn’t be successful without my group.”
And success isn’t something he takes lightly. After every event, he checks with the performers to be sure they were 100 percent satisfied with his crew’s service.
“They appreciate what our group does and I always try to get a thumbs-up at the end of every show,” he said. “We are just trying to do our job to the best of our abilities so everyone enjoys themselves and wants to come back to another show.”
To make sure everyone has a good time, Sansone’s day starts hours before a 7 p.m. show. He makes the calls to line up the staff and coordinate where everyone goes and when.
“Once we get the call to open doors, it’s when I can breathe a sigh of relief for a moment,” Sansone said. “When the first note of the first song starts, it’s an even bigger sigh of relief. Then we’re working like a well-oiled machine.”
And then, after the show, there is always at least one security staffer on duty until the last tour bus or person leaves the arena. Sometimes a performer will want to wind down after being on stage or a crewman from a band will hang out at the arena until 3 a.m.
Sansone said of all the performers he’s met at the arena, the most fan-friendly one has been Bret Michaels. He said he takes the time to sign autographs, meets fans and is the “coolest one.” He said Sugarland and Larry the Cable Guy also were genuine to fans.
Just because Sansone and the security staff have access to the performers doesn’t mean they meet them. And, unless it’s a popular song that catches their attention for quick listen, they don’t even really pay attention to the act because they’re constantly on the go.
Even when Sansone’s at another arena at a show out of town, he’s so used to working that he really can’t enjoy himself at a show. “I catch myself watching the crowd,” Sansone said.
He has three pretty memorable experiences with a crowd. Two of them were when shows were stopped for people having seizures. A third was during a gymnastics meet in the late 2000s.
During the meet, severe weather forced the show underground. Sansone evacuated everyone into the tunnels under the arena. It put a damper on the final competitions at the meet, but it also prompted one man to write a letter from Meridian thanking the staff for keeping everyone safe.
“My favorite part is the thrill of the challenge because every show is different and unique and you never know what to expect,” Sansone said.
Right now the arena is in its busy season, Sansone said. “When the arena gets fired up, it operates a lot like school. It slows down for the summer months, but then from September to April it’s wide open.”
When he’s not at the arena, he’s spending time with his family and friends and firing up the grill. He’s also been a soccer coach for his daughter’s team and coached soccer and baseball for his son’s teams. Sansone said overall, he’s grateful for the support of his family and the arena staff for where he’s gotten in life.
“When I first started security, I was at the Zoo (aka the nightclub Twilight Zone),” he said. “I was 19 or 20 years old. To think I went from working at a night club to a 10,000-capacity arena, it’s something special to me.”