Safety & Security

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Nationals Park Bans Backpacks, Citing Increased Security Concerns

20 Feb, 2019

By: Michael Popke

If you plan to catch a game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., this season, leave your backpack at home.

A new policy set to take effect March 25 at an exhibition game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees bans all backpacks. The only exception, according to the “Bag Policy” on the Nationals website, are “backpacks purchased inside the Nationals Baseball Stadium Complex during the game or event at the Nationals Baseball Stadium Complex [that] will be tagged and permitted for that day only.”

Purses, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers that are no larger than 16 inches long, 16 inches tall and 8 inches wide are still permitted.

“The safety of our fans, staff and players at Nationals Park is always a top priority,” Scott Fear, the team’s vice president of public safety and security, said in a statement. “We are constantly assessing our procedures in an effort to make our ballpark safe. We understand the implementation of these procedures will take some time for our fans to get used to, but our organization is dedicated to making Nationals Park the safest environment possible for everyone in attendance.”

Fear, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Park Police, elaborated on the decision to ban backpacks to The Washington Post. “We tried to eliminate one bag that we feel will make the stadium safer and much more secure, by prohibiting the bag that has the most compartments. It’s all about security, the effectiveness of getting the crowd in and making the crowd safe,” Fear said, acknowledging that many fans arrive at games via public transportation directly from work and carry laptops and a change of clothes with them, which is why he said the team will continue to allow other types of bags. “We want all of our fans to feel like they can go to work and come straight to the ballpark. Hopefully they’ll find that bag that will enable them to do that.”

Many college and professional teams have long had bag restrictions in place, requiring fans to use specific types of bags. Clear bags that do not exceed 12 inches long, 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide are the standard, and other bags must be no larger than 4.5-by-6.5 inches. In 2017, a handful of Major League Baseball teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, were among the first to ban backpacks.

Last fall, an increasing number of high schools in several states banned backpacks at both indoor and outdoor sporting events, citing heightened security concerns.

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