Fans Win Food Fight With the Eagles
Choosing to reverse field, the team said ticket holders can bring food into the new stadium.
This article was originally pubilshed in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 1, 2003
The Eagles yesterday made a one-word change in the list of items fans can't bring to the new Lincoln Financial Field.
They dropped the word food.
And so the much-criticized " hoagie ban" was history without ever going into effect.
Resolution of the hoagie dispute, which had commanded public attention for much of the last three weeks, was announced jointly by the Eagles, Mayor Street and Gov. Rendell.
The governor was so elated that he opened a news conference on the state's budget impasse by declaring that the resolution of the matter showed that "we are not doing nothing here in Harrisburg. "
Eagles president Joe Banner, speaking at the team's training camp at Lehigh University, described the new food policy as similar to the one the team had at Veterans Stadium, with one significant exception: Fans bearing food will be directed to a limited number of entry points that will feature enhanced security .
The team did not announce how many such entry points there would be or where they would be located.
To allow for easy inspection, food will have to be wrapped in clear, plastic, sandwich-size bags. Soft coolers and other large containers, as well as cans and bottles, will be prohibited, as is the case at all NFL stadiums.
Lincoln Financial Field will host its first official event Sunday night, a soccer game between European powers Manchester United and FC Barcelona.
The Eagles had tried to justify the hoagie ban on security grounds, saying the fewer items fans brought to the stadium, the safer everyone would be.
"We were doing what we thought was best for the majority of fans," Banner said yesterday, reiterating that the intent had not been to enhance sales at concession stands. "I'm disappointed people attributed other motives to us. There was never any attempt to disrespect the fans. "
Banner said the Eagles had reacted to the public outcry by reaching out to state and city officials. The state has $85 million invested in the $512 million stadium, the city $96 million.
A better balance
In retrospect, Banner said, the food ban might have been "overly conservative," while the new policy strikes "a better balance between safety and fan concerns. "
"I really think that's probably the best idea," Brian Gilbert of Manayunk said last night on Main Street. "If I want to bring food, they should accommodate me in some fashion. They responded to people who had a complaint that made sense. "
Rendell, a huge Eagles fan, initially supported the ban, saying through his press secretary two weeks ago that it was good public policy for dealing with a legitimate security concern. In developing the policy, the Eagles had followed the advice given them by the state's Office of Homeland Security .
But Rendell said yesterday that he had taken another look after fans spoke up and that he had concluded that the risk in letting in some food under controlled circumstances was minimal.
"All security measures are taken not in a vacuum but have to meet a balancing test," the governor said. "Even at airports, the security measures are balanced by the need to get passengers as expeditiously as possible through security lines.
"So when the fans started to protest, the Eagles got back in touch with us, with the Philadelphia police," he said. "This was a decision of such an importance - hoagies being such a cherished item in the Philadelphia region - that Mayor Street and I got involved.
Fans' tradition continues
The mayor said in a statement that the new policy would address the legitimate security concerns of the Eagles while allowing fans "to carry on a great Philadelphia tradition" of bringing hoagies and other sandwiches to football games.
Mitch White of Wilmington, who was at Veterans Stadium for the Phillies' game against the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, said he did not believe that the food was a security issue.
"If you're trained properly, you know what's a threat," White said. "It was all about the money, because if you have clear plastic bags or something like that, you can tell what the people have, and you can get around that. "
State Rep. Michael McGeehan (D., Phila.) said he would withdraw proposed legislation to require any stadium built with public funds to allow fans to bring in their own food.
Fourteen NFL stadiums ban outside food. Most of the rest limit the size of bags that can be brought in, with many insisting on clear plastic packaging.
* All food items must be packaged in clear, plastic, sandwich-size bags.
* Food may be brought in only at some specially designated entry points still to be determined.
* No coolers of any size are allowed into the new stadium.
Inquirer staff writers Mario F. Cattabiani and Phil Sheridan contributed to this article.