Will McCormack

Despite the early success of the Yale football team, some fans are unhappy with inconveniences caused by a new no-reentry rule and clear bag policy at the Yale Bowl.

Weeks before the start of the season, the Yale University Athletic Department announced a new no-reentry policy and clear bag policy, which forbids fans from bringing backpacks, purses, camera bags, binocular cases or diaper bags into the Yale Bowl. While several fans told the News that they are inconvenienced but understanding of the new rules, some longtime season ticket holders and tailgaters at the University said their frustrations run deeper.

Fans Joan and Robert Mazurek, season ticket holders who live in North Haven and tailgate in the YUAD lot, penned an open letter to University President Peter Salovey and Director of Athletics Vicky Chun this weekend to express their anger with the no-reentry policy. Mr. Mazurek — whose father worked as an electrician at the stadium in the 1950s — has been attending football games at the Bowl since childhood and has watched his son, Andrew Mazurek ’02, play in the Yale Precision Marching Band. In the letter, the couple said they often moved between the lot, permanent restrooms and stadium seating throughout the course of each game before this season. The new re-admittance rule requires fans to purchase a separate ticket if they would like to reenter the stadium after exiting, while the YUAD lot — which sits at the north end of the Bowl — only has two portable toilets.

“What’s important is that we want one ticket that we buy — [that] all of us buy — to suffice for the entire day: to go into the Bowl, out of the Bowl, into the tailgate, out of the tailgate, into the ladies’ [and] men’s room, out of the ladies’ [and] men’s room,” Ms. Mazurek said. “We want it like it was where one ticket sufficed. We did not have to buy an extra ticket every time we turned around. That’s the problem. There was no reason to change this.”

According to the new bag policy, fans can only bring clear, one-gallon Ziploc bags, small handheld purses or one official Yale Athletics clear bag. The athletics department sells the official bags — which measure one foot by one foot by six inches — at the ticket office and the pop-up Under Armour tent at the Yale Bowl for $5. Fans who buy more than $50 worth of gear at the Bowl receive a free bag.

According to Deputy Director of Athletics Ann-Marie Guglieri, the clear bag policy, as well as the no-reentry rule, were implemented to align the Yale Bowl with other venues nationally and address “very serious long-held concerns” about safety. In an interview with the News in September, Chun said she hoped the new bag policy would be a “cost-negative for everybody” and make the fan experience safer and more efficient.

In an interview with the News, Bill Simmons, an employee in his first season working at the Bowl, said fans have been receptive to the bag policy. Yale offers a complimentary bag check at Gate C, where Simmons works. The outlet allows fans without a clear bag to check their bags for the course of the game and offers them the chance to purchase a clear, reusable Yale Athletics tote permitted by the new policy.

“They understand that it’s for safety reasons only and that we just want to make sure everybody enjoys the game [and] comes home safely,” Simmons said. “Anybody can come up that doesn’t have a clear [Yale] bag, and then we also offer them for $5 per clear bag … For the most part, people haven’t been angry. We just wish [the new policy] was a little better relayed.”

Peter Wells ’60, who attends every Yale football game, said that he feels the policy is a hindrance, but recognizes the rationale behind it.

“I don’t personally like it, but I understand why it exists,” Wells said. “I’m finding a way around it. My granddaughter had to leave her purse in my car, and she’s going home, so she’s going to come back and give me my keys through the gate… I hardly ever [go in and out multiple times], it’s just that she’s got to go home.”

But several fans — many of who frequently park in the YUAD lot — are more angered than Wells about the new rules, especially the re-admittance policy. James Lockman ’89, another season ticket holder who holds a parking pass in the YUAD, said he and family typically move in and out of the lot eight to 10 times during a game, bouncing between seats and the lot to take in warmups, enjoy the tailgate, use the bathroom and watch the game. Lockman married his wife on the 50-yard line at the Bowl during halftime of the Yale-Fordham game in 1992, and his mother-in-law, a New Haven native, started watching games in the 1950s.

“The consensus right now is they’re upset about the change and they’re not liking the change at this point,” said Rose Ann Ricci, an employee of Contemporary Services Corporation. “I just tell them that it’s pretty much my job to enforce those rules, and I don’t make the rules. They’ve been pretty much compliant, in spite of being very upset about it… Some of them tried to violate the rules, but still I stood fast and they respected the fact that I had to implement that.”

While the YUAD lot features two portable toilets, Mazurek and Lockman said the new re-admittance rule forces YUAD tailgaters, many of whom are seniors, to decide between entering the stadium boundaries to use permanent toilets and staying in the lot to enjoy the rest of their tailgate. Both said they feel the policy has upended many of their game day traditions, and Lockman added that “every single person” he talked to in the YUAD lot last Saturday was “visibly upset” about the no-reentry rule.

Lockman specifically expressed frustration with what he sees as a lack of communication from Yale Athletics regarding the policy change. Although he realizes the University published the new rules on its social feeds and website, he believes that such communication does not suffice.

“The response from the University, when asked, is we put it in our social media,” Lockman said. “Now, how many 75-year-old women or men who come to [a] game with their children and grandchildren are watching social media — Yale Athletics social media, of all things — to learn of a new policy? … That is an absolutely ridiculous statement that social media is the way to inform your loyal customer base of a really significant change to policy.”

Still, in interviews with the News, athletics administrators emphasized that many stadiums for professional teams or at other universities have similar policies for reentry and carry-in bags.

According to Chun, bags sold by Yale are approved by the National Football League. The clear bag rule resembles a nearly identical security policy implemented across the NFL in 2013. Several other college teams — including Boston College, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and all teams in the SEC — have adopted similar restrictions. Apart from the branding, clear bags with the Yale “Y” are identical to the official bags offered by the NFL and its 32 franchises.

According to Christopher Humm, director of athletic communications at Brown, while the Bears’ policy does not prohibit bags, “all are subject to be checked.” Cornell, Harvard, Penn and Princeton also search bags as fans enter the stadium. Cornell forbids large bags and backpacks, the Crimson prohibit bags with a volume greater than one cubic foot and Penn does not allow “large bags like duffel or equipment bags.”

According to Harvard’s Associate Director of Athletics Tim Williamson, Harvard also bans game attendees from coming back once they’ve left the venue. Still, other Ivy League schools have stadium policies that resemble the Bowl’s prior to this season. Penn’s Franklin Field and Princeton Stadium allow fans to reenter after receiving a hand stamp upon exiting, according to information on each school’s website. Meanwhile, Humm told the News that fans with a ticket are allowed reentry into Brown Stadium.

For her part, Ms. Mazurek said she has started to ignore the no-reentry policy.

“A guy at the gate tells us, ‘[If] you go out, you can’t come in. You can’t come in,’” Ms. Mazurek said. “Well, I walk in and out, I just go right by them. I tell them, ‘Stop me. Physically stop me.’ I will continue to [violate it] unless he wants to lock me up or handcuff me.”

The Yale Bowl first opened on Nov. 21, 1914, for a football game between Yale and Harvard.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu

William McCormack covers Yale men's basketball. He previously served as a Sports and Digital Editor for the Yale Daily News and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.