Linda Wright showed up at Friday night's Vikings game with a new see-through plastic purse and refused to be turned away just because it had a zipper.
Wright, who had paid $30 for the purse on a website that said it was "NFL-approved," told a security employee that no one had mentioned that purses couldn't have zippers.
"Here's the problem," he replied, cradling the 12-inch-by-6-inch purse in his palm. "It's a purse, right? But it's bigger than a clutch."
Wright, 43, of Shoreview was among thousands of Minnesota Vikings fans who confronted new NFL restrictions on purses and backpacks as they arrived for the team's preseason opener. Some reacted with annoyance, while others were grateful. One father fumed that he couldn't bring in empty water bottles for his children, saying he couldn't afford to buy costly Metrodome beverages.
The so-called purse ban, adopted by the NFL in May after the Boston Marathon bombing, prohibits most purses, backpacks, fanny packs, briefcases, coolers, camera bags and seat cushions. It allows medically necessary items, clear plastic bags as big as a one-gallon freezer bag and clutch purses about the size of a hand.
Amid a stalemate with the security employee, Wright offered to cut off the little black loop handles on her see-through purse, but the zipper remained a problem. The attendant called in his supervisor, adding that they had run into other similar problems as fans poured through the Metrodome gates on the balmy evening.
Jeff Spoerndle, Whelan Security's director of special services, finally allowed Wright to bring her purse inside, saying similar bags would be OK on Friday evening only, as an exception, because the rule was so new.
"It's close to the required size," Spoerndle said. "We want to do our best to provide good customer service to the fans of the Minnesota Vikings."
Wright said the new rule is good but expressed exasperation that the NFL hadn't done a better job explaining ahead of time what isn't allowed.
Reaching out early
At perimeter fencing about 100 steps from the Dome, security workers turned away fans with large bags and purses before they could get to ticket gates — and that prevented long backups. The Vikings also established an emergency station where fans could check contraband bags. By 6:45 p.m., with 15 minutes to go until kickoff, only 275 items had been checked.
"That's awesome; I'm surprised myself," said Dannon Hulskotter, Vikings' director of marketing. "I'm glad the fans are getting the message."
Some fans, however, didn't want to check their banned accessories, including Lindsey Borgstrom, 24, of St. Paul. She hadn't heard about the new NFL rules and had to hike five blocks back to her car.
Among those who came prepared was season-ticket holder Ruthanne Chilson, 72, of Rush City. She and her guest left their purses behind. They and others expressed gratitude for heightened security.
"I think it's good," said Chilson, adding that the rule made her feel "as safe as you can be."
Shortly before game time, "the majority of fans seem to be aware of — and understanding of — the new NFL policy," said Jeff Anderson, communications director for the Vikings.
"Of course we have had a handful of complaints in person, but nothing out of the ordinary, and frankly less than what we expected given the significant change," Anderson said.
Anderson said Vikings officials will regroup next week to discuss how they can tweak the gameday process to make it more convenient for fans.
Needing a packhorse
Justin Ohm, a 31-year-old teacher from West St. Paul, was told at one gate that he couldn't get into the Dome with his 35mm camera in a small camera bag, so he tried another gate. Security workers there said his camera would be allowed, but not the bag.
He and his father, Ron Ohm, 57, of New Ulm, spent 20 minutes wending their way through the crowd to check the bag. But then they were nearly turned away at another gate because of the camera before a security worker waved them through.
"It seems like overkill," Ron Ohm said, noting the rule had been inconsistently enforced.
Sue Wilson, 57, of Rochester, wasn't fazed. Wearing pocketless slacks, she toted her cellphone, keys and a cough drop in a plastic bag. "It doesn't really bother me," she said.
"As long as you have a packhorse," interjected her husband, Dennis Wilson, 57, who carried her money and identification in his pockets.