Steelers to pat down all fans entering Heinz Field

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And you thought guys at football games only patted each other's butts on the field.

Not so. Starting tomorrow night at the gates of Heinz Field, all fans attending the sold-out, nationally televised preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles will be given a full pat-down by security guards before being allowed to enter the stadium.

And no, it's not because Philadelphia's infamously tough fans might be trying to smuggle in D batteries to pelt their players on the road as well as at home. The policy will apply to all future games as well as tomorrow night's, according to Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett.

"It was really just a matter of trying to enhance our security to make sure our security is as tight as possible," Lockett said. "There was no particular incident and no particular reason [to require pat-downs] other than trying to do what we could to make sure game day is as safe an environment as possible for everyone."

The extra security measures, however, will require fans to spend some extra time at the gate. And although it can be difficult to pry some fans from their tailgate parties, Heinz Field will open gates A and B, at the Coca-Cola Great Hall and South Plaza, at 5 p.m. -- three hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff instead of the usual two hours -- to reduce delays for fans who choose to show up early. Gate C will open at 6 p.m. for access to the seating bowl, club lounges and suites.

Coolers, Thermoses, bags, backpacks and purses larger than 81/2 by 11 inches are prohibited. Small purses, fanny packs, small camera cases, binocular cases and diaper bags will be permitted, although all bags are subject to search.

While full pat-downs before each game are a new policy for the Steelers, the club has required security guards to frisk fans wearing heavy coats during cold-weather games since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Lockett said.

In this new era of heightened security, nearly a dozen NFL teams now require pat-downs of fans before each game, according to Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL.

The league also began full pat-downs of fans at Superbowl XXXVI in New Orleans in 2002, just a few months after the terrorist attacks, he said. While the NFL does not require the check, it does ask security guards to perform them at the request of the teams.

Philadelphia is one of the teams that began requiring the full pat-downs after Sept. 11, so Eagles fans visiting Pittsburgh for the game won't be surprised when they are frisked at the gates, according to Philadelphia Eagles spokesman Derek Boyko. In any case, most people have gotten used to extra security measures at airports, train stations and special events.

"After 9-11, people are accustomed to security in a lot of places, not just at sporting events," Boyko said. "It's a part of society where security is a priority."

Outside Heinz Field, tailgating is permitted in the pre-sold parking lots surrounding the stadium, which open at 3 p.m.

After the game, police will operate three lanes of the West End Bridge southbound for vehicles leaving the stadium. Also, Allegheny Avenue will be northbound only, from Reedsdale Street to Ridge Avenue, with the right lane leading only to the Fort Duquesne Bridge. And the right curb lane of General Robinson Street eastbound, from Mazeroski Way to Federal Street, will be for buses only.

Folks who don't have a pre-purchased parking spot near the stadium should use parking lots Downtown, one of the Port Authority's Park-and-Ride lots, or the lots at Station Square, where they can board a boat to ferry them to Heinz Field.

Fans leaving Station Square and heading south after the game can now use the Wabash HOV Tunnel, and there are no requirements on the number of passengers after Heinz Field events.

Downtown parking lots include Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages on Boulevard of the Allies, the Mon Wharf and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center while private garages with $5 parking include the Blatner-Brunner Building, the PPG Building, Fifth Avenue Place and the USX Tower.

From Downtown, fans can walk to Heinz field across the North Side bridges.

Also, this year the Port Authority will operate a shuttle bus between the First Side garage -- where there is a T station serving the South Hills -- and Heinz Field for $1.25 one way. Stops include the Clemente Bridge, the Byham Theater, Liberty Avenue at Heinz Hall and opposite the Wood Street T Station.


Amy McConnell Schaarsmith can be reached at aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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