For years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have required fans to pass through hand-held metal detectors. The team, in fact, was more security-conscious than any other sports team in town, dating back to well before 2001. Back then the threat was gang violence. Now it's mass shooting.
You opened up your jacket, they felt your pockets, they looked in your purses, waved a wand around you and off you went. It was a little time consuming, but not terribly disruptive.
Something seemed to change at the last home game. At the skyway level entrances, the lines crossed the skyway into the nearly abandoned Block E.
New security people -- younger ones, for that's worth -- seemed to be taking things a little more seriously. Keys had to come out of pockets, so did cellphones. Yards away from the security perimeter, the ticket-takers had nothing to do. The fans were being released so slowly that I counted one fan getting in to the game about every 30 seconds.
I expected to see a big crowd once I got inside, but, instead, it was one of the smallest crowds of the year. We missed the first five minutes of the game because of the increased security.
It's more fallout from Newtown. The NBA has mandated all team increase their security.
The NBA team issued a news release today and sent letters to season ticket holders that says, basically, "get used to it."
Here it is:
Beginning tonight and through the remainder of the Timberwolves season, the NBA, in a continual effort to improve fan and team safety, has mandated increased security screening with the use of handheld metal detectors for all fans entering Target Center. We recommend that fans arrive early (30 minutes prior to game time) as unexpected delays may occur. Along with asking season ticket members to arrive early and allow for extra time into the arena, please be reminded of the following in order to make your experience as seamless as possible:
• Cooperate with security personnel.
• Be patient while fans and security staff adjust to the new process.
• Be aware of those lines that are shorter or moving faster and be sure to take advantage of them.
• Have purses and coats open and ready for inspection prior to arriving at security check points.
• Remember that outside food and beverages are not allowed.
• Remember that prohibited items include: firearms, knives and other weapons/self defense items such as mace.
• The fan texting number is 612-673-8398. This can be used to send anonymous info or requests to security and guest services staff.
Have purses and coats open and ready for inspection prior to arriving at security check points.
So far, we don't have to remove our shoes.
This should be an interesting exercise once a team comes to town that might draw fans -- Miami in about two weeks should provide the perfect test. The Target Center arena is poorly designed for crowd flow with only two entrance locations.
David Stern's NBA is all about the corporate suites, and corporate suitsters feel more comfortable when everyone around them has gone through at least one security checkpoint.
It's the new 1% America. It has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with keeping the very wealthy safe from the rest of us. I'm sure Stern put a bug in Taylor's ear about this before agreeing to trash talk Target Arena as not being up to the NBA's freeloading-off-taxpayer's-dollars standards.
Apparently, the real threat is that the team might actually try to be competitive in our lifetime.