If you’re going to a ticketed event in Fresno, chances are good you’ll have to leave your backpack or purse at home.
A series of unrelated events both in Fresno and abroad have led many of the local venues to tighten up their bag policies. Some also have added metal detectors to their entrance routines. Both are a byproduct of 2017 life, but both have led to long entrance lines for everything from rock concerts and symphony performances to San Joaquin Valley Town Hall events.
Bottom line? You probably need to check out the location’s bag policy before you walk out your front door, and you probably need to arrive 10-15 minutes earlier than you may have before to allow extra time for screening.
Security at Save Mart Center has remained pretty much unchanged. It follows the bag policy laid out by SMG, the venue management company contracted to run Save Mart Center. This allows bags smaller than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. Backpacks are not allowed, but diaper bags are. All bags are subject to search.
It’s important to note that promoters also have rules that venues must follow. For example, when people stream into Save Mart Center on Saturday for the WWE Live event, they will also have to follow WWE’s rules. You may want to check out the website of the event you are seeing, as rules can vary greatly.
Perhaps the biggest local bag shock has occurred at Fresno Convention Center and its venues: Saroyan Theatre and Selland Arena. These locations are managed by a separate arm of SMG. Spokeswoman Amy Jennings said the venues adopted new corporate security protocols, including the SMG bag policy, after a May terrorist attack in the United Kingdom left 23 people dead and hundreds injured. SMG also manages the Manchester Arena, where a suicide bombing occurred during an Ariana Grande concert.
The changes led to some long lines Sunday at the Fresno Philharmonic’s Pops concert, which actually relaxed the bag policy for this season-opening show. Attendees were still required to go through metal detectors – a first for the philharmonic. The bag policy will be in effect for the first concert of the philharmonic’s masterworks series on Oct. 15 and for every show thereafter.
When “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” opens Oct. 24 to begin the Saroyan’s Broadway in Fresno season, it will also follow the new security policies. Other regular series, such as the Valley Town Hall, will follow suit.
Jennings said exceptions may be made for individual events if organizations submit a request in writing. Central California Women’s Conference received such an exemption for its event on Tuesday.
At the Aug. 15 Incubus concert, the line for the north entrance to Selland stretched past the parking lot and into the parking garage near Saroyan by 7:30 p.m. It moved pretty quickly, but security at the front of the line did not actually check my wife’s small bag as we entered. The line for the south entrance was longer.
The large venues in town aren’t the only ones to update policies.
Strummer’s in the Tower District has experimented with different bag policies over the past year, but general manager Brandon Duenas said the current rules prohibit bags or purses larger than 10 inches or with straps. Small handbags or clutches are allowed.
The rumor was that Strummer’s changed its policy after a security guard was threatened by a knife-wielding customer who had hidden the weapon in her purse, but Duenas said this never happened. The new policy is simply intended to keep people from sneaking in weapons or drug paraphernalia.
In the past year or so, Edwards Fresno Stadium 22 has also begun to check any bags brought into the movie theater. Regal Cinemas tightened its security after a series of shootings at theaters in 2014 and 2015.
These types of policies are not at all unique to Fresno. Many larger venues at larger cities have had similar rules in place for years. Some also require you to use plastic bags to store your belongings.