True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd.’s new no-bag policy at Winnipeg Jets home games is being decried by some as an inconvenience at best and a barrier at worst.
Those looking to get into the downtown Canada Life Centre will now only be allowed a clutch or wallet-style bag (dimensions 12" x 6" x 3" or smaller), with exemptions being made for guests carrying diaper bags, people whose medical conditions require them to carry a larger bag, and members of the media.
Some Winnipeggers say the decision puts fans at a disadvantage, regardless of exemptions.
"Every time I’ve gone to a Jets game, I’ve taken the bus, so there’s no car for me to leave (my things) in," Meghan Waters, who is studying inclusivity in education, told the Free Press.
"And secondly, I don’t think a lot of people would want to leave their bags in their car. I mean, it’s Winnipeg. You don’t want cars getting broken into and bags getting taken, which would be a really bad way to end the Jets game."
Beyond the inconvenience, Waters, who ran as an NDP candidate in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital in the recent federal election, said she found the rule to be dismissive to people who menstruate, people who may have medical conditions they are not comfortable disclosing publicly, and anyone else who may need to carry around things larger than a clutch to feel comfortable and safe.
"I would say to trust people to bring a bag that’s large enough to carry the things that they need and have people at the door look through," she said.
A few weeks ago, a bag check-in site was set up in the former Liquor Mart building in City Place, just south of the Canada Life Centre. For $10, people can check in their bags, with the entirety of the proceeds going to the True North Youth Foundation.
"It’s not a cash grab. It’s not the business we want to be in," True North senior vice-president of venues and entertainment Kevin Donnelly said Monday.
"We understand that not everybody hears the message and not everybody has an alternative for the knapsack or their suitcase or their briefcase or whatever it might be."
Regardless, the decision will remain at the Canada Life Centre as long as the NHL keeps it in place, Donnelly said, who noted the decision was made both to tighten security and to improve on the original method of contactless bag-searching, which involved security going through bags with a stick.
People who have medical or family exemptions will be directed to a different entrance, where their belongings will go through an X-ray machine before they are admitted.
Donnelly said many people coming to recent events in the building, including Sunday’s Jets preseason game and a concert Tuesday, were unaware of the new rules and didn’t know about the bag check-in option.
"We posted about it probably a number of weeks ago on our website, but the first time it’s been used, the first time it’s been sort of an issue was the first time someone tries to enter the building with a bag," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.