The new NFL policy that bans non-clear bags from stadiums will be enforced at tonight's game between the Steelers and the New York Giants at Heinz Field -- and it is already causing problems for retailers and fans.
The list of prohibited items includes backpacks, purses, coolers, camera cases, fanny packs, diaper bags, laptop carriers and seat cushions with backs or zippers.
The only large bags that will be permitted in the stadium are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags that are smaller than 12 by 6 by 12 inches in size. This includes 1-gallon clear plastic freezer bags.
But for those who would prefer to carry their items in something other than a freezer bag, their options are limited to the clear tote bag sold by the NFL.
The $5 bag features a zipper and a Steelers logo, but is sold only at Steelers Sideline stores and NFLshop.com.
Other retailers, like Hometowne Sports in Station Square, haven't had enough time to stock clear plastic bags from distributors.
"We have placed an order," said owner Linda Meyer. "They should be available before the season starts."
What's allowed at Heinz Field
• Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12 by 6 by 12 inches. (Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags will be available through club merchandise outlets or nflshop.com.)
• One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
• Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap can be taken into the stadium in addition to one of the clear plastic bags.
• An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.
But her distributor, New Jersey-based Forever Collectibles, isn't as sure. When asked about the clear Steelers bags, the distributor estimated it may take until mid-September for them to arrive.
Cassandra Buncie, co-founder of the online store Black n Gold Girls, said she was excited when she saw Forever Collectibles was selling tote, messenger and drawstring bags that fit the policy. But her order of clear bags is so back-logged that she had to remove them from her site completely.
"It's kind of a mess all around," Ms. Buncie said. "Nobody is able to get these bags, yet the rule is still in place."
Ms. Buncie said her customers are clearly annoyed at the entire situation.
"It's kind of embarrassing, you don't want your stuff to be seen by everybody," Ms. Buncie said. "Especially particular supplies a woman might need to bring."
The NFL has tried to compensate for that issue by allowing fans to also carry small clutch-type bags less than 4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches.
Rexene Carlstrom, owner of the The Pittsburgh Fan, located across from PNC Park, said her main concern is how the new policy will affect sales. Many fans buy items from the store before the game. But until the store is able to purchase clear bags for customers to carry their items in, people may be wary of making a purchase they can't take into the stadium.
"Going forward, if the NFL does this, soon the MLB and the NHL will follow," Ms. Carlstrom said. "I understand we need to make things secure, but this is going to cost us a lot more money."
Anyone who brings a non-approved bag to the stadium will be turned away and asked to place their bag elsewhere. Fans will be allowed to bring in cameras, binoculars, jackets and blankets, but those items must be carried, not placed inside a bag.Steelers - businessnews
Jessica Contrera: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1458 or on Twitter @mjcontrera.