On a frigid Thursday morning, Adam Tucker ’21 arrived in front of Payne Whitney at 7:30 a.m. hoping to purchase one of the limited tickets to The Game. After waiting more than two and a half hours, he left empty-handed to attend his first class at 10 a.m.
Abhishek Srinivas ’21, who waited in line with Tucker, reached the front of the line at roughly 10:50 a.m., more than three hours after first arriving on the scene.
This year, Yalies were allotted just 2,500 student tickets for the annual Yale-Harvard game, prompting widespread paranoia as students scrambled to get their hands on tickets to one of the most anticipated games of the year. The first students arrived in line at 5:45 a.m. By 2 p.m., all the tickets had sold out.
“Unfortunately, due to Harvard’s decision to host the game at Fenway this year, we were given a smaller allotment [of tickets] than in past years,” Director of Athletics Victoria Chun told the News. “To accommodate our students, our ticketing staff designated portions of our ticket allotment by college. In addition, to handle the volume as efficiently as possible, we had seven people processing credit cards through machines.”
Previously, when The Game was held at Harvard, Yale was allocated 3,000 tickets. But only about 2,500 of them were purchased by students, with the remaining sold as guest tickets.
But in the two years since the last football game in Cambridge, the undergraduate population has grown by 400 students. Still, sports administrators did not anticipate nor accommodate the sheer volume of students that arrived at 9 a.m.
In the cold and early hours of Thursday morning, students began piling outside of the ticket office, huddling to keep warm, camping inside tents and browsing notes to pass the time. By 7 a.m., the line wrapped around the corner onto Dixwell Avenue. At 8:15 a.m., students spilled onto Lake Place. When the ticket office opened at 9 a.m., there were over 1,000 students in line.
Even after the office opened for business, students waited in line for hours before being able to purchase a ticket. Students interviewed by the News said the tickets office was not properly equipped to deal with the large crowd: Seven booths were selling tickets to the thousands of students who showed up.
One student lamented that the attendants at the ticket table looked like they were manually typing seat assignments and emails, a process which took roughly a minute per student.
“I didn’t envision that it would take this long, but once I had waited here for an hour I just decided to keep waiting, I wasn’t just going to abandon my place in line,” said Jason Altshuler ’22, who missed his classes to wait in line for a total of four hours.
Siddarth Shankar ’22 said that the University should not have “forced” students to choose between “attending class” and waiting in line to purchase tickets to The Game, which he described as “one of the most important social events of the year.”
But Maggie Kirtley ’22 — who also waited for nearly four hours — said she was “thrilled” to get a ticket because as soon as she learned The Game would take place at Fenway, attending it became an item on her bucket list. Kirtley said that in the long term, four hours were “insignificant” compared to taking part in an “iconic Yale tradition.”
Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeremy Makins, who was primarily responsible for Thursday’s ticketing operation, told the News that multiple measures were implemented to more efficiently queue the students this year. Most notably, the tickets were sold in Payne Whitney — rather than the Ray Tompkins House — to allow for a greater number of students to stand inside. Still, Makins said, he was open to student feedback about the process.
“We continue to evaluate our operations and processes, and when possible make the necessary changes,” Makins said. “With today’s sales operation so present in everyone’s mind, I think it would be a great opportunity to look ahead and start working toward a better plan for the 2020 game, especially if that plan utilizes our online sales platform to more efficiently process transactions.”
In an effort to alleviate long lines, reduce the wait times and encourage support for Yale Athletics, the ticket office also implemented a staggered sales scheme this year, allowing the most ardent supporters to purchase tickets before Thursday. Students who attended four specific Yale games qualified for top-tier ticket access on Tuesday. Students who attended three made the second tier on Wednesday.
According to Makins, approximately 100 tickets were sold on Tuesday, while another 300 were sold on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, motivated by the “Harvard Yale Ticket Campout” Facebook event that began at 5:45 a.m., students rushed to get a chance to purchase one of the remaining 2,100 tickets. The campout was organized by students Daniel Keller ’19 and Brian Kitano ’19, who said they created the event to prompt their friends to show up early. By Thursday, nearly 200 people had signed up for the event on Facebook.
Adding to students’ concerns, last week, Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar announced in an email that student seating at Fenway would be assigned, and that students intending to sit with their friends would have to purchase their tickets together. To ameliorate apprehensions, each residential college received a limited block of tickets so that students in the same college could sit together. But less than two hours into Thursday’s sales, the seating allocated to the residential colleges had reached capacity, multiple students told the News.
When asked why there had to be assigned student seating, Director of Sports Publicity Steve Conn directed questions to Harvard’s Office of External Affairs. Both Harvard and Fenway Sports Group representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Jackson Cole ’20, president of The Whaling Crew, said that The Whaling Crew has opened a page on Facebook called the “Yale Harvard Ticket Exchange.” Cole said this page acts as a platform for students to switch tickets with one another. Thus, students that did not receive tickets with their friends will be able to use this platform to switch seats.
But students have not been the only ones disappointed with this year’s difficulty in procuring tickets.
Ronald Campbell ’60 told the News that he has attended The Game with a small group of friends almost continuously since his graduation from Yale. In August, when he called the Yale Athletics Office to order a set of tickets, none were available for graduates, Campbell said.
Campbell added that in previous years, the Yale ticket office would send out a “nice, small brochure” to subscribers explaining how to apply for tickets. But this year, the brochure was not sent out.
Makins said that, while alumni were given the opportunity to directly preorder tickets through Fenway in April, the game was sold out within a week.
“Our office did not have a general allotment of tickets for sale to this game — fans were directed to order directly through Fenway this year,” Makins told the News.
Yale will face Harvard in the 135th edition of The Game at Fenway on Nov. 17.
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