Fans unfazed by new Steelers games security procedure


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Fans moved calmly and uniformly through queues Sunday at Heinz Field on the first day of new security rules that require handheld metal detector scans upon entering the stadium.

Announced Wednesday, the procedure is now a requirement for all National Football League stadiums and will be in effect for all games this season.

Before Sunday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, some Steelers fans criticized the new rule online, suggesting it would take much longer to move the crowd during what they say is an already long wait to get inside.

People in line Sunday seemed unfazed by the change.

Some said they thought the handheld scan would actually be less intrusive than a pat-down. Others said their wait didn't seem any longer than usual. One person posed during the scan while her friend snapped a photo. And some weren't aware of the new procedure at all.

"How long does it take to go like this?" said Julie Tabacsko of Indiana Township, making a scanning motion.

"Like five seconds," said her friend Amanda Grove of Edenburg, Cambria County.

That's pretty close. Each scan lasts seconds. While it might have taken a little longer this first night, the scan will soon outpace the pat-down -- and may be preferable for some, said Jimmie Sacco, executive director of stadium management.

"A lot of people were sensitive to the pat-down," he said of the procedure the NFL ordered in 2001.

Mr. Sacco called the new procedure "fan friendly" and said it will create a safe environment for fans to enjoy the game. The stadium deployed its own staff Sunday to ask fans how they felt about the scan. People were cooperative and seemed unperturbed by the changes, staff reported.

Even if the process takes a little longer, that's fine by John Belt of Steubenville, Ohio.

"Personally, I'm willing to wait in line a little if it ensures my family's safety," he said.

Protocol varied by gate Sunday, though. At Gate C, a woman announced the security change every 10 minutes or so and fans were asked to line up for scans with a guard of their gender. At the main entrance, Gate A, there was no such distinction. The announcements there did not alert fans to the security change.

Mr. Sacco said those in charge of Gate C were mistakenly following the pat-down procedure that separated people by gender, and they were later corrected.

The scan allows men and women to be checked by guards of either gender. Those who prefer a pat-down can opt out of the scan, he said.

At the security checkpoint, guards also ask fans to activate the screen on phones and laptops to ensure the devices are real.

The NFL introduced the handheld metal detectors last year and made their use at stadiums optional. A few test devices were placed at Heinz Field gates at that time, Mr. Sacco said.

Now, a couple hundred detectors are in use. The stadium used existing staff to operate the devices, and over the summer the crew received training and briefings about the forthcoming change.

Mr. Sacco encourages people to continue to arrive early as stadium crews and fans adjust to the change.

Fans can visit www.steelers.com to view the new guidelines.

Steelers - neigh_city

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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