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Rays to randomly screen fans before games

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: April 25, 2013 at 06:39 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Count the Tampa Bay Rays among the sports teams that have increased security at a time the country is still reeling from the Boston Marathon bombings.

Security officers have begun using metal-detecting wands to screen random fans entering Tropicana Field, including at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games against the New York Yankees.

Although the organization said it has used the technique in the past — mostly at playoff games and at special events like a Republican National Convention gathering at Tropicana Field last August — several fans at Wednesday’s game said it’s the first time they’ve seen the security technique used. Most said they weren’t bothered by the practice.

The team said the random wanding occurs at all gates and the employee entrance. Though team officials would not say whether the use of the portable metal detectors was added because of the Boston Marathon bombings, the team did say the Rays have added an additional overnight security officer and reminded staff to “exercise increased awareness.”

The use of the metal-detecting wands at future games will be evaluated as the season progresses, the team said.

Most fans questioned at Wednesday’s game seemed unfazed by the security screening.

Wearing a Rays cap, Tom Shevlin waited not far from the ticket windows for his sister, Ron Shevlin, who was one of those who underwent the security screening.

A regular at Rays games, Ron Shevlin said she has never been screened before with the metal-detecting wand at a Rays game, but she had no problem with the extra security.

“Safety is everything,” said Ron Shevlin, 59, of Largo. “Being on alert is perfect. You never know who it may be.”

Tom Shevlin, 61, also said he isn’t bothered by the metal detectors, though he said using them for every fan would cause problems by slowing down the lines.

“Who’s going to come to the game if you’re going to spend an hour or so for security purposes?” said Shevlin, who had traveled from upstate New York to visit his sister.

Willie Harris, though, said not screening everyone limits the effectiveness.

“I don’t see doing one out of every 100 people will do anything,” said Harris, 53, of Safety Harbor. “It’s probably not enough.”

Harris and his wife, Lisa, said they have been season-ticket holders for years and have never been wanded at Tropicana Field, including during this year’s opening home game against the Baltimore Orioles. Both were picked out by security for the screening Wednesday night before entering the stadium.

“It made me feel better,” said Lisa Harris, 53. “I liked it. It gave me a false sense of security. It possibly could be a deterrent if people see it, which is probably the goal.”

The Rays are not the only local sports team using the wands for security.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers required every fan attending a game last year to be screened with the metal-detecting wands before entering Raymond James Stadium. The team will continue the practice this season, said Bobby Silvest, vice president of marketing and communication for the Tampa Sports Authority.

“We’ve implemented security measures to make sure we have a safe environment and that’s what we’re doing,” Silvest said.

The Bucs first began using the wands on a test basis in 2011.

The Tampa Bay Lightning began using the wands to randomly screen fans about a week before the April 15 bombings in Boston.

For the most part, fans at Wednesday night’s Rays game seemed to appreciate the extra security.

“With what happened in Boston, everybody is taking security measures,” said Duane Seabourn, 46, who came from New York to visit family and see the game and was one of those picked for the extra screening. “You can never get too safe. Once you get complacent, the possibility can happen again.”


jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

Reporter Erik Erlendsson contributed to this report.

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