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Tampa Bay Rays fans facing more security checks

Karen Vukcevic, 67, of Holiday screens Ed Hallock with a metal detector wand before the Tampa Bay Rays-Toronto Blue Jays game Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Fans offered mixed reactions to the added security.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Karen Vukcevic, 67, of Holiday screens Ed Hallock with a metal detector wand before the Tampa Bay Rays-Toronto Blue Jays game Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Fans offered mixed reactions to the added security.

ST. PETERSBURG

Before entering Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays fan David Futral dug his keys and change from his pockets and set them in a red tray. He spread his arms and a security guard waved a wand that detects metal across his chest. He turned. The guard scanned his back. "They're more friendly at the airport," Futral, 58, joked with the guard as he fished his coins from the tray. "What, you're not going to leave your change?" the security guard joked back.

This brief security check is just another reminder that — in today's world — boisterous diversion sometimes requires sobering precaution.

By 2015, Major League Baseball will require fans entering all stadiums to pass through metal detectors or submit to handheld wand detectors.

To get an early jump, the Rays began random wand checks last year and expanded those checks to all fans this season. They may also experiment with metal detectors later in the year.

Baseball owners were already discussing security precautions last year with the Department of Homeland Security when the Boston Marathon bombing reiterated the importance of protecting large crowds.

"Major League Baseball is concerned about everything that might pose a danger to our fans, players and stadium workers, and everything that might cause our fans any anxiety,'' spokesman Michael Teeven said.

"It's just an after-effect of 9/11," Futral said. "Or the Boston bombing, take your pick."

He and his wife, Melanie, both thought the security was no problem, and said if it made watching the game any safer, they were glad to have it.

Judy Studnicki didn't agree. While she didn't mind a guard glancing in her purse, or quickly waving the wand over her body, she thought the extra security robbed a bit of carefree spirit from the game.

"They're turning everyone into worrywarts," she said.

Tampa Bay sports fans have ambivalent histories with stadium security. Raymond James Stadium employees patted down Bucs fans for years, prompting persistent grumbling and even a lawsuit.

Handheld metal detectors finally replaced those patdowns last season, but Raymond James also added a purse ban. Fans bringing items to the game must use transparent plastic bags, to speed up inspections.

The Rays allow purses and small bags, but inspect the contents. Unlike most sports teams, they also let fans bring food into the ballpark, which can lead to more inspections.

"We ask that the food be placed in transparent containers so we don't have to go through it,'' spokesman Rick Vaughn said.

The metal detecting wand does not target keys or cellphones, Vaughn said. Fans hold those in their hands during the wanding. People with pacemakers, hip replacements or other medical devices that might set off the wand can submit to a gentle patdown.

If the wanding or bag check turns up prohibited items, fans must return them to their cars or dispose of them. The Rays will not store those items during the game.

The Rays' website lists banned items: bags, purses or backpacks larger than 16 by 16 by 8 inches, alcohol, weapons, fireworks, cameras with lenses over 12 inches, bullhorns or air horns, lasers, coolers, brooms over 4 feet long and wrapped gifts of any kind.

Tampa Bay Rays fans facing more security checks 04/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 3:34pm]
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