ANALYSIS: Contextualizing Yale’s indoor winter sports policy
Indoor sports venues will open at 75 percent capacity to fully vaccinated individuals, among other guidelines released by Yale Athletics last month.
Elifnaz Onder, Production and Design Editor
With winter sports underway, fans looking to support the Blue and White must adhere to Yale Athletics’ Indoor Winter Sports Policy, which outlines attendance protocols put into place in adherence with the University’s broader COVID-19 guidelines.
The guidelines, which took effect on Oct. 14, outline how attendance will be enforced at the Brady Squash Courts, Coxe Cage, Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, Ingalls Rink and the John J. Lee Amphitheatre. All venues will be opened at a 75 percent capacity exclusively to fully vaccinated individuals. Masks are required at all times, and outside food is not permitted, nor will any of the venues sell concessions. The policy, as with all Covid-19 policies on campus, was put into place by the COVID Review Team, or CRT, and University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler’s office, according to Yale’s Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella.
“As public conditions and guidance evolve, the university and the CRT will work with units and schools to modify their health and safety plans and event guidelines,” Spangler wrote in an email to the News.
The current guidelines also state that children aged 11 and under are not permitted to attend indoor sporting events.
The indoor winter sports policy serves as a marked change from the fall. While fans attending fall volleyball games at the Lee Amphitheater were still required to be vaccinated, there was no limit on the number of fans who could attend in the fall spectator policies. Spangler did not indicate why there was no capacity limit in the fall, nor how capacity limits would be enforced at winter sporting events.
Albert Ko, professor of public health and epidemiology noted that there are no state or federal guidelines or recommendations with regards to indoor capacity limits at this time.
“My own personal opinion is that I think it makes sense to space people out, especially in these indoor settings where people are shouting and so forth,” Ko said. “Now the question is, why 75 percent? Why not 70 percent or why not 73 or why not 80? I’m going to leave that to the people who know the layout of the gyms and what that gives people space to do.”
As each Ivy League institution is responsible for developing its own guidelines, there is no uniform attendance policy across the Ancient Eight.
Cornell University opened all winter sports venues at 50 percent capacity with the exception of their men’s hockey and wrestling teams, which will use a “COVID Checkpoint” to monitor attendance.
The Levien Gymnasium, home of Columbia’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, will open at a 70 percent capacity. The Lions’ swimming and diving teams will invite guests to the Percy Uris Natatorium through a reserved pass list.
At Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, fans are required to be vaccinated, but there is no capacity limit at any indoor winter sports venues. Harvard University also does not have a capacity limit, and will accept a negative Covid-19 PCR test that is administered within 72 hours prior to the event in lieu of proof of vaccination.
Brown University and Dartmouth College did not have publicly available winter sports attendance policies. Athletic department officials at both schools did not reply to requests for clarification in time for publication.
Currently, Yale is the only Ivy League member to release guidelines barring children aged 11 and under from attending winter sporting events. Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Penn and Princeton all will allow children to attend sporting events without proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 PCR test. Children attending events at these venues must wear a mask while indoors.
Princeton’s guidelines state that their indoor attendance policy “will be revisited once children 5-11 years old have had an opportunity to be fully vaccinated.”
On Nov. 9, the Yale men’s basketball team defeated Division III Vassar College 88-42 in the Bulldogs’ first game at Lee Amphitheatre since February 2020. Even with audience capacity limited to 75 percent, head coach James Jones expressed excitement about having fans back in the stands.
“I think that when we get students here and the energy they bring, it’s awesome,” Jones said after the home opener. “Whether it’s 25 percent capacity, 500 people, 100 people, it’s always good energy from our student body. We had a really nice crowd tonight for our first game non-Division I, so I was happy about that.”
The John J. Lee Amphitheater welcomed 1,468 people to the Vassar game, which represents 52 percent of a maximum capacity of 2,800.
Aislinn Kinsella, William McCormack and Olivia Tucker contributed reporting.