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‘Bag man’ has solution for Bears fans’ big bags

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Updated: October 7, 2013 1:07PM

Packing light takes skill.

If that skill eludes Chicago Bears fans who are attending Sunday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals but who have not heeded new NFL bag restrictions, there is a solution.

It costs $10. Cash only.

Brian Gross, CEO of Chicago-based Entertainment Lockers, has launched a portable locker concession, located on 18th Street, where Bears fans can stow gear that is not allowed in the stadium in safe, locked environs. The two-year-old company also has contracts with the big music fests — Pitchfork, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest — as well as the Philadelphia Eagles and the BMW PGA Championship in north suburban Lake Forest.

Gross discovered his own packing skills didn’t pass muster when he attended the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City two years ago. He had a backpack, but nowhere to stash it on the festival grounds. The PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant decided to go into the bag business.

“I had a 50-pound bag in the grueling heat and no place to store it,” Gross said. “My friends and I decided to start the business when we got home.”

Since other concertgoers had the same problem, he launched his business to fill the gap in the music festival experience. When folks at the Chicago Bears head office decided they needed to offer a storage solution after the first pre-season game, an Internet search provided the answer.

“The Bears honestly Googled us and gave us a call,” Gross said. “And we went from there.”

The Bears signed a contract with Entertainment Lockers, one of the only companies in this niche market, for two games, with a possible extension.

The new NFL security measures include: downsizing from a shoulder bag to a clutch; using a TSA standard, now NFL-approved, 1-gallon plastic Ziploc bag; a clear plastic, 12-by-6-inch bag on offer from the NFL; or traditional pant pockets. Many people were caught off guard by the policy during last week’s preseason game and found themselves all bagged up with nowhere to go.

Except to Entertainment Lockers in a parking lot on 18th Street.

While the concept is simple, long lines delayed folks who needed to park handbags, laptops, camera and binocular cases and backpacks in the temporary storage units. Renters must sign a waiver, submit to a bag search by an off-duty police officer and pay $10, cash only. A receipt lists the combination required for pickup.

For Sunday’s game, Gross has 600 lockers, including those large enough to hold suitcases for those jetting to the airport afterwards. Check-in opens at 9 a.m.

“If you’re planning to check a bag, allow some time,” Gross said. “We’ll have more staff on Sunday, but the lines will be long.”

Bob Laskowski, director of stadium experience for the Chicago Bears, wants fans to adhere to the “less is more” philosophy and leave all bags at home.

“We’re going to see how the need goes,” he said about the team providing lockers all season. “We don’t want our fans to rely on having lockers.”

Laskowski says his wife has it down to a science — only keys, cash and a cellphone. “She doesn’t want to put her $350 handbag on the ground,” Laskowski said. “There’s soda, beer and who knows what else.”

Kristie Setzer of Bucktown now shares the same sentiment after deciding to check, not chuck, her almost-empty oversized handbag last week. The longtime Bears fan only had four things in her cavernous satchel — none of which she said was required for her game-day experience.

“If I had known, I wouldn’t have brought it,” she said. “I won’t do it again.”

And what would the locker guy bring?

“I’d take a wallet and a cell phone,” Gross said. “The rules aren’t changing any time soon.”

But he’s a guy.


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