New NFL entrance policy will affect tailgating

49er fan security pat down
Image Credit: Associated Press

Tailgaters and football fans that have attended an NFL pre-season game this season may have noticed a change in the way they enter the stadium. The NFL rolled out a new security policy going into effect at all stadiums this year. Gone are the airport style “pat downs” and replaced with hand-held metal detectors scanning fans’ bodies.

Many of the NFL stadiums that have already hosted a pre-season game have placed signs outside of entrance gates informing fans of the new security measures. These signs also instruct those ticket holders to remove anything in their pockets like car keys and cell phones that contain metal and could possibly slow down the process by giving a “false positive”. The new metal detectors have been introduced to cut down on the time fans take to get through security lines. Because the metal detectors eliminate the need for male/female screening lines, there is no physical contact between security people and the ticket holder, predictably speeding up the process.

It’s an improvement in theory and on paper seems like it could speed up the process. But how will it hold up in practice? That remains to be seem.

After attending both of the San Diego Chargers preseason games and being subjected to these new security techniques, I have observed this:

  • The security line did not seem to move any faster this year than in years past because fans are not used to this policy yet. Fans were too busy doing others things and did not read the signs alerting them to remove phones and keys from their pockets. When it was their turn to get the hand wand, the device would beep when they waived it over the person’s front pockets and then they would ask them to remove their keys or their phone. Then the process of waiving the wand would start over. Essentially the process took twice as long had the person followed the directions and removed their metal items the first time.
  • The need to have two different lines of security for the two different genders was helpful in that I did not see security lines virtually empty because the ratio of male to female fans was disproportionate. I didn’t see open lines of female security guards just standing around and waiting for a female fan to come through while the male security line resembled the line to buy toilet paper in the former Soviet Union.
  • The new hand-held metal detector wands detect metal and assuming potentially dangerous weapons. They do not alert the security guard of someone smuggling in non-metallic contraband such as liquor. This new procedure could be good news for tailgaters that would try to smuggle in alcohol only to have it get discovered during the pat downs of the past. Now if you are so inclined, as long as you can hide your alcohol in a container that does not have any metal and conceal it well enough, you can carry in your own hooch without detection.

For a new security policy designed to get fans through the gates faster and more efficiently, some of the NFL franchises may not share the same same optimism as the NFL league offices hold. The Oakland Raiders, in an email forwarded to me by a season ticket holder, are suggesting fans enter Coliseum two hours early to allow “ample time for this new security procedure.” Of course this may be a ploy to discourage those fans from tailgating which in turn results in fans spending less money inside the stadium on food, beverages and merchandise. By encouraging fans to enter the stadium two hours prior to kick off, the Raiders may also be encouraging fans to reduce the crush of fans jamming the gates minutes before kick off, thus eliminating that bottle necking “rush hour” effect.

So how does this new security policy directly affect you, the NFL tailgater? Honestly it could cut back on your tailgating time if the new metal detector wands slow down the flow of fans entering the stadium. You may need to start packing up your tailgating gear a little bit earlier than in seasons past just to make it to your seat in time for kick off.

Until fans start getting used to the new procedures, wait times to go through security could actually increase. We would suggest that security personnel be stationed outside gates with either a bullhorn or some other type of announcement device verbally alerting fans to this new security policy. As mentioned before, fans may not read the signs and therefore slow down the process because they have to remove items that are not dangerous yet make the metal detectors beep. That would be my suggestion but then again, when has the NFL ever called me for my opinion on anything?