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PNC Park stops new security measures to wand Pirates fans

By Alex Zimmerman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 11, 2013

The wands weren’t magic, but the decision to stop using them made the lines disappear.

A security measure announced Monday that would have required all fans entering PNC Park to be searched by metal-detecting wands was abandoned minutes after the Tuesday night game against the San Francisco Giants was scheduled to begin.

The decision to add a layer of security was directly related to a review of stadium procedures in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, according to Brian Warecki, a Pirates spokesman.

“The Boston bombings gave us an opportunity for us to look at everything we do at PNC Park in terms of safety and security,” he said.

Initially, many fans agreed the wands were an appropriate — albeit slightly annoying — measure. “Anything to make us feel safer, you have to do it in this day and age,” said Joel Andrews of Avalon.

But as the line to the home plate entrance snaked all the way to the right field gate, expletive-laden murmurs began emerging from the increasingly restless crowd.

By 7 p.m., the line in front of the home plate entrance devolved into a mosh-pit of rankled fans who expressed frustration with the new procedure.

“How many shootings have you heard of in a Pirate game?” said Frank Fabus of Dormont, a longtime Pirates fan who used to attend games at Forbes Field. “People can still sneak stuff through.”

By about 7:15, hundreds of people were still waiting in line and security personnel were instructed to stop using the metal detecting wands. Within minutes, the lines evaporated.

On Tuesday evening Pirates president Frank Coonelly said:

“On behalf of the Pirates organization, I apologize to our fans who experienced long lines at the gates prior to tonight’s game. … We stopped the wanding procedure at the start of the game and were able to clear the lines at the gates by the end of first inning.

“The experience was simply unacceptable and we will ensure this does not happen again.”

The Pirates chose to deploy the new security measure on a mid-June weeknight game, when crowds typically hover around 20,000, instead of the 40,000 numbers that the team hopes for on weekends, according to Mr. Warecki, who added, “We don’t expect it to run perfectly smoothly out of the gate.”

That official number was 30,614 in part because Gerrit Cole, a top prospect, made his debut.

“It was a dumb night to start it,” said Patty Haeck, a partial season ticket holder from Mount Lebanon who got in line at 6:30. She joked: “They should get someone from Disney. They know how to run a line.”

MLB does not universally require teams to screen fans with metal-detecting wands at their facilities, according to league spokesman Mike Teevan.

But the league plans to review operating practices across the country.

This security change isn’t the first of the year at PNC Park. The amount of security personnel, surveillance cameras and training have all increased, Mr. Warecki said.

The wand procedure hasn’t been used at PNC Park since the 2006 All-Star game, but “it won’t be anything new for our fans,” Mr. Warecki said, noting that the Steelers and other large events often use the metal-detecting wands.

Most fans weren’t surprised by the new procedure but said that it wasn’t well-executed.

Others pointed out that giving up on the procedure may have negated its potential benefits.

“What’s the point if you’re going to end up stopping?” one fan asked, adding “They obviously need more staff.”

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