As fans flock to Lucas Oil Stadium to see the Colts this year, they’ll show off their Andrew Luck replica jerseys, flat-brimmed hats and fancy foam fingers.
But the must-have accessory of the football season won’t be something they wear.
The essential item for fans this year will be clear plastic bags to carry all their game day gear.
New NFL regulations this season have banned backpacks, fanny packs, camera cases and diaper bags from games. Instead, fans who have anything larger than a small purse are asked to put their belongings in clear vinyl or plastic bags.
The move changes how some fans will get ready for games. But for area season-ticket holders, the restrictions will be nothing more than an inconvenience.
“We don’t have a problem with it because we want to be safe,” said Simon Morse, a Center Grove area resident and season-ticket holder. “We like to travel light, so that way we don’t have to carry anything around.”
The new regulations were put in place for all 32 NFL stadiums following the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon in April.
Banned items include purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags.
For Morse and his wife, Nina, that should just be common sense.
“All of those things are perfectly reasonable,” Nina Morse said. “You don’t need that much at the games anyway.”
‘It didn’t bother me a lot’
The couple have been Colts season-ticket holders for about 20 years and rarely bring anything more than their cellphones, cameras and binoculars.
When the Colts provided them with a clear plastic bag, that was everything they needed to carry their items, Simon Morse said.
The NFL looked at other professional sporting leagues, as well as college football programs, before deciding on the proper policy, NFL chief security officer Jeffrey Miller said in a news release announcing the changes.
Schools such as the University of Michigan, Penn State University and Michigan State University don’t allow bags of any kind — even purses. The NFL adopted similar rules.
Franklin resident and season-ticket holder Becky Wertz also received her clear bag in the mail from the Colts this month. The bag — 12 inches tall, 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep — is all she needs.
Rarely does she want anything more than her phone, glasses and maybe a tube of lipstick when she goes to games with her husband, Richard.
“I don’t want anyone in there hurting anyone, so it didn’t bother me a lot,” she said. “Plus, when people spill beer all over you, it won’t ruin your purse.”
Lucas Oil Stadium already had a policy barring any bags of any kind, including large purses. The new NFL rules fall in line with what has already been in practice at Colts games for the past five years, Wertz said.
‘Some people don’t listen’
But her hope is that the new NFL regulations are followed more closely. She attended a soccer game at the stadium on Aug. 1, and despite the no-bag rules, many fans passed through gates without even being inspected.
“They told people, ‘No bags,’ but when we got up there, everyone went through,” she said. “If you’re going to say this, enforce it. Some people don’t listen or don’t read, so they don’t know. But if you have rules, enforce them.”
While the NFL rules are new this year, fans should be used to going through increased security before events, said J.D. Campbell, spokesman for Indiana University.
At Indiana University’s Memorial Stadium, fans are allowed to bring personal bags and backpacks into the games. But those bags are subject to searches by security personnel at the gates, the same policy that has been in place for the past 12 years, Campbell said.
“We don’t anticipate any changes to the time it takes fans to enter the stadium on game day,” he said. “Staffing and the number of entrances are adjusted to allow fans to have a positive experience on game day.”
Center Grove area resident Ginny Storar has had football season tickets for more than 30 years at Indiana University and has never had problems in the security line. Security workers at the stadium are fast and efficient, checking larger bags for banned items such as outside food, alcohol or weapons.
“You have to open your purse up for them. They feel your purse, then look inside. But they don’t pat you down or anything like that. It hasn’t changed in years,” she said.
The fewer the fans coming to the games, the fewer intrusive security measures are necessary, Franklin College director of athletics Kerry Prather said.
The college doesn’t check bags or pat down visitors to football games or other sporting events, mainly because the risk of an incident isn’t high due to the fewer number of people attending.
‘Realm of subjectivity’
At Faught Stadium, security workers and off-duty police officers look out for fans who are intoxicated and for bags that look suspicious but aren’t doing pat-downs or bag checks, Prather said. The college hasn’t had any past incidents that would require more security than that, he said.
“I think when you’ve got tens of thousands of people coming into a venue, it’s impossible to do a real good visual inspection like we’re able to do because we typically have hundreds of people, compared to thousands,” Prather said.
High school games, while popular locally, aren’t attracting large enough crowds to make them a target, Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt said.
If you are heading to a high school game, like always, leave your coolers and alcohol at home, Zwitt said.
Greenwood doesn’t allow kids to bring in footballs and Frisbees, athletics director Pete Huse said. But women bringing in purses and families with diaper bags aren’t checked.
In Edinburgh, some people pull their entire cars into the stadium to park, athletics director David Walden said. The vehicles are not checked.
Prather understands the dilemma large venues, such as Lucas Oil Stadium, face in trying to balance privacy and convenience against safety. He’s glad Franklin College hasn’t had to consider additional security measures like the NFL has when determining what is appropriate for game day.
“Now they’re into a realm of subjectivity in terms of what size of purse presents what level of security risk. Diaper bags are the same thing, and that’s unfortunate,” Prather said.