William McCormack, Contributing Photographer

As the Yale football team inches closer to its first regular season collegiate action in almost two years, Yale’s athletic administrators are working behind the scenes to prepare for the school’s largest athletic event since the pandemic struck.

The Bulldogs are less than three afternoons away from returning to the Yale Bowl, where they are set to host Holy Cross (1–1, 0–0 Patriot) to kick off their 148th season, for the first time in 665 days. The anticipated event will occur at the Bulldogs’ largest athletic venue by far — the Yale Bowl seats 61,446 — and has required organization, planning and fine tuning on the part of Yale athletic administrators, who are themselves more than 90 weeks removed from having hosted a previous Bowl event.

“Our mindset is on making sure we get all of the small details dialed in and focusing on essentials,” said Ian Ballantyne, who was promoted to associate athletic director for event management this past summer. “Our goal is always to put on as great of an event as we can, but it starts with the basics of what is happening on the field, staffing accordingly to our expected attendance and making sure everyone involved in the operation is on the same page.”

Ballantyne, who has been working for the Blue and White for about two years and serves as the sport administrator for Yale’s field hockey, fencing, sailing and golf programs, told the News that he and other employees at Yale Athletics are spending extra time at the Bowl this week in preparation.

Ballantyne said the yearlong hiatus was helpful in allowing Yale’s athletic administration as a whole to catch its collective breath. With kickoff just around the corner, Ballantyne has a renewed sense of excitement to implement the plans he and the staff have worked so hard to map out on paper.

“I would not say I feel rusty,” he said. “If anything, I’m refreshed and excited to do what I love to do again. We’ve had the past 18 months to prepare and now we finally get to put our plans into action.”

The Yale Bowl will again feature several gameday policies first introduced in fall 2019, including a clear bag policy and a no reentry rule that prohibits fans who have exited the Bowl from being able to enter again using the same ticket.

Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella told the News that Yale Athletics has now transitioned to using digital ticketing. Fans will receive an order confirmation email containing links to add each ticket to their digital wallet as well as an attachment with printable PDF tickets, according to the Yale’s official digital ticketing policy.

Yale’s gameday policies also specify that the athletic department will provide a round-trip fan bus between Payne Whitney Gym and the Bowl. Ballantyne said the fan bus schedule will be published later this week. As of Wednesday night, the schedule posted on Yale’s Sports and Recreation website only shows a final bus departing from Payne Whitney Gym for the day at noon.

In an email to the News, Gambardella also specified a pandemic-related policy at the Bowl this fall. As with all of Yale’s outdoor athletic venues this season, unvaccinated fans will be required to wear masks. Additionally, fans with COVID-19 symptoms are asked to stay home.

Unvaccinated fans are required to wear masks at the Yale Bowl and other outdoor Yale venues this fall. (Photo: William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

But Ballantyne said that fans can expect to have an experience at the Bowl that mirrors what it looked and felt like two years ago. He declined to comment on expected attendance for the game this weekend.

“As of this moment, the fan experience will stay the same as where it was in 2019,” Ballantyne said. “We always continue to look for ways to improve on the fan experience throughout the season and then into the next year.”

5,684 fans attended Yale’s home opener against Holy Cross in September 2019.

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.