No more purses, bags at Dallas Cowboys games

Posted Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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When she was growing up, Desiree Villarreal says, going to a Cowboys game to watch the “nation’s favorite team” was always a family bonding event.

So the Mesquite resident, now the mother of an infant daughter, is not happy that the NFL’s new security policy considers it a penalty to bring a standard diaper bag to a game.

Where will she put the diapers, wipes, bottles, toys and burp cloths? How many freezer bags and approved small clutches can one person carry?

“Honest to God, I go visit my mom at the Carswell federal penitentiary and I have to take a clear bag,” Villarreal said. “It’s like, am I going to prison or a damn football game?”

Clearly, the new bag policy, which fans will face for the first time at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, will take some getting used to.

Fans can no longer bring in standard bags and purses after the NFL stadium security committee voted unanimously in May to ban certain bags and limit the sizes of others — a response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

On April 15, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two bombs near the finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260, authorities say.

The bombings were “a significant factor into our thinking,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “We’ve evolved our security measures over the years since 9-11.”

Cowboys officials worked with hotels, cab companies, shuttle drivers and parking operators to forewarn fans about what to expect when they arrive at the stadium. When they do, they’ll be greeted by pre-security screeners.

Men with purses

Working in conjunction with the NFL’s 32 teams, the stadium security committee decided that the bag ban would increase safety and reduce long waits in line.

Here’s how it works.

Fans are discouraged from bringing any type of bag or purse into AT&T Stadium, but there are guidelines for those deemed acceptable.

Bags must be clear plastic, vinyl or PVC (another type of plastic), and they cannot exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.

The NFL is selling clear bags, with logos, online. Women’s clutch bags, or hand-held bags no larger than 51/2 inches by 81/2 inches, will also be permitted. The Cowboys gave season ticket holders free bags with the Dallas Cowboys star through Aug. 2.

One-gallon clear freezer bags are permitted and will be provided to those who arrive with too much baggage. Binoculars and cameras may be brought in but only if they are in clear bags.

Fans can also carry items in their pockets, and special allowances will be made for those with medical conditions, said Paul Turner, director of event operations and security at AT&T Stadium.

Women are allowed to bring one hand-held bag and one clear bag, and men can help out by carrying their female friends’ clutches through the gate, McCarthy said.

Diaper bags are among those that will not be allowed, and some women say their personal hygiene products shouldn’t be on display.

Clutch bag or not, Julianna Garcia said, the new rules infringe on people’s right to privacy.

“Think about why a woman carries a purse in the first place: to have privacy and be discreet,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the NFL is just looking for other ways to make money.

But McCarthy said otherwise.

“You, as a fan, you don’t have to buy a darn thing. If you have a bag that meets the right dimensions, or a Ziploc, bring it,” McCarthy said.

Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ public relations chief, said the team doesn’t intend to make money off the bag ban and will hand out 1-gallon freezer bags to fans. He said the team won’t use the new policy to sell merchandise.

All eyes on the NFL

On Saturday, 30 staff members set up around the perimeter of AT&T Stadium will inspect bags before fans even reach the 10 entry gates.

Staffers will have bags to show the allowable sizes, but they won’t have a measuring device like the ones at airports. Turner said he hopes the rule will be fan-friendly and move people through the gates faster.

While the NFL set the rules for their games, officials at AT&T Stadium said they are adopting the bag policy for all events, including college and high school football games.

Turner said other sports leagues are studying whether the NFL policy is something they should consider. He said that though the Dallas Cowboys share information with the Texas Rangers, any change would have to be made at the major-league level.

Richard Olvera of Forney has been a Cowboys and Rangers season ticket holder for eight years. He said the Rangers’ security does a good job of getting fans through and thoroughly searching bags without clogging up lines.

Olvera said that he and his girlfriend usually travel light and that the new policy at the football stadium doesn’t bother him much.

He said the policy will have the biggest effect on parents, who have to travel a bit heavier than he does.

“I think it would be a hardship for parents who have children — the tissues, bottles, sippy cups, diapers and asthma inhalers and all,” Olvera said. “But when you look at your kid, you can never put a price on the safety of your child.”

Turner said the point is really safety and accessibility.

“We just ask that people think about what are the essentials they need when they come to the stadium,” Turner said. “We know it’s a behavior change.”

Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST

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