Seahawks fans filing into CenturyLink Field for the team’s preseason home opener Saturday will be picked clean of their backpacks, purses or any other tote bags that don’t conform to a new leaguewide policy meant to tighten security.
As do all National Football League fans this season, the 12th Man faces new “limitations on bag size and style (as) a further enhancement for convenience and safety,” the league’s new policy states.
Adopted in May, the new rules limit each fan to just one large, clear bag for carrying food or personal items into NFL stadiums. The bag may be plastic, vinyl or PVC, so long as it doesn’t exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.
A 1-gallon freezer bag will do the trick, league officials say.
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Fans may also carry a small clutch bag — about the size of a hand or smaller — along with one of the clear bags. Stadium security can make exceptions for “medically necessary items.”
But typical totes, backpacks, purses, fanny packs, computer bags, coolers, camera bags and “luggage of any kind” are no longer permitted in the Clink or any of the NFL’s other stadiums.
“The goal is not to forbid fans from bringing in any stuff that they usually bring in,” Seahawks spokeswoman Suzanne Lavender said Friday. “It’s just (restricting) the type of bag they’re using to bring it in.”
Among other items dubbed out-of-bounds by the NFL are diaper bags, binocular bags and even seat cushions.
“My biggest gripe is the seat cushions,” said John Smith, 67, a Seahawks season-ticket holder since the team’s inaugural 1976 campaign. “Those seats are very uncomfortable.”
The league’s safety committee determined such bleacher cushions are made in a way that could “allow them to be used to conceal a potential explosive device,” according to an NFL primer on the new policy.
The Seahawks’ Pro Shop no longer will sell the cushions, Lavender said.
Instead, she suggested fans could “make your own seat cushion using the [permitted plastic] bags by stuffing a blanket or jacket in there.”
The NFL recommends fans now carry diapers, phones, binoculars or any item that typically comes in its own bag only in the permitted clear bags.
“Fans still can bring in sealed water bottles and prepackaged food,” Lavender said. “If they want to bring their camera or iPhone or anything like that, they can do that, too. They just have to bring it in the clear bag.”
To help ease the new policy into practice, Seahawks staff members plan to hand out one free and approved clear bag per person before Saturday’s game and the Sept. 15 regular-season home opener.
CenturyLink Field also will provide three baggage-check stations for nonconforming bags during Saturday’s game, Lavender said.
The NFL’s crackdown on fan’s belongings — now the strictest in American pro sports — was implemented for security reasons, league officials said.
Still, the league is now selling official NFL team logo plastic tote bags, ranging in price from $9.95 to $19.95, at team stores and on the league’s website.
The new rules might explain a jump in sales of jet-set clutches at Michael Kors, said Jorge Olguin, sales manager at the designer’s downtown Seattle store. The handheld clutches feature zippers and a small section that fits a phone and wallet, convenient for carrying essentials.
“They’ve sold like crazy,” Olguin said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, college and pro sports stadiums and arenas nationwide have ramped up security measures.
Fans of the Mariners and University of Washington go through a visual check on bags as they enter Safeco Field and Husky Stadium. And last month, Sounders fans at CenturyLink Field started encountering metal-detector screenings.
But other than a few college football stadiums, only the NFL has implemented a bag policy.
NFL officials said they adopted the new rules after an annual review of security regulations.
The policy was being contemplated before this year’s backpack bombings at the Boston Marathon, though league officials have said that incident factored into adoption of the new rules.
Smith, the longtime Seahawks ticket holder, said he and his wife, Nancy, are so upset by the changes that they’re considering giving up their seats this season.
“I don’t mind an extra few minutes (of stadium employees) looking through my bag,” Smith added.
But other NFL fans are more understanding of the new rules.
“It’s part of the times we live in,” said Shawn Driscoll, 58, of Boston. “I don’t think it’s an inconvenience.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this report. Lewis Kamb: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2932. Twitter: @lewiskamb