In light of a new security policy by NFL that bags, coolers and other carry-in items from stadiums, the Minnesota Vikings are offering a little training for their fans.
At the Vikings’ pre-season camp in Mankato, Minn., on Wednesday, team officials showed off what will and what won’t be allowed into the stadium when the new policy takes effect next month.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the NFL is enacting stringent new security measures. Fans can’t carry in anything bigger than 1 foot by 1 foot by six inches. Bags must be transparent, so security personnel can see everything fans are bringing in.
“The Boston Marathon incident was taken into consideration, but this started with the NFL’s stadium security committee,” team spokesman Jeff Anderson said. “This is ultimately about fan safety, as well as expediting entry into the stadium.”
Kim Klawiter, head of security for the Vikings, held up a foot-long square, clear vinyl bag, the maximum size the league will allow through the gate when the team opens the pre-season against the Houston Texans on Aug. 9 in Minneapolis. But he said fans don’t have go out and hunt for a clear plastic tote bag.
“Just a regular Ziploc storage bag that most people have for storing sandwiches, food in their refrigerator, is plenty good,” Klawiter said.
Among the new rules getting the most attention: Fans cannot bring purses into the stadium under any circumstances. The rules ban purses with handles or straps, but Klawiter said women would be allowed to bring in a clutch no bigger than their hand.
Cinch bags, laptop cases, fanny packs, camera bags and luggage also are prohibited under the new policy. Diaper bags also are banned. Parents of small children will have to pack diapers, wipes and bottles in the same clear bag everybody else uses.
To prepare fans, the Vikings are sending out sample bags to ticket holders. Security personnel will also have large, gallon-sized plastic bags, at least initially, at the stadium gates to help fans comply with the new regulations.
There will be medical exceptions.
“If anybody has any need for any medical equipment that will be allowed in the stadium,” Klawiter said.
The exception will include breast pumps. Metrodome security personnel see sees fans bring in five or six of the devices through the games every week.
Pro sports teams like the Minnesota Twins already inspect bags coming into games, and the Vikings and Timberwolves both use metal detectors at their gates. But the new policy, in place at every NFL stadium this year, is the most stringent yet.
Security experts say it may be the shape of things to come for large public gatherings. John Kirkwood, chief deputy at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office, said the hassles and inconvenience that make fans grumble improve security.
“One of the keys with security is not only just detection, but deterrence,” said Kirkwood, who in 2008 was the Secret Service agent in charge of security at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. “If you have a significant security footprint in anything that you’re doing, and somebody sees that, they’re certainly not going to try to challenge that as much as they would a less secure environment.”
The team is sending transparent tote bags to season ticket holders, and will have a bag check outside the stadium. But Vikings officials say those are only temporary measures and fans will simply have to learn to travel light when they head to the football game.
The Vikings and security officials will talk to fans as they approach the stadium, reminding them of the new policy and encouraging them to return banned items to their cars if possible.
The team will have a free bag check outside the stadium initially but will likely phase it out after the first four or five games, Anderson said.