Thursday, February 2, 2023

ODU just started a ‘clear bag’ policy for its new stadium — How about venues in the Peninsula?

A member of the cheer team flies the Tribe flag during the football game. Photo by Stephen Salpukas
A member of the cheer team flies the Tribe flag during the football game. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Stephen Salpukas, William & Mary)

Late last month, Old Dominion revealed its shiny, new $67.5 million football stadium  and with it, a new “clear bag” policy aimed at moving fans through the security process faster than before.

So, is ODU unique, or are clear bag policies the norm?

While most event venues and hosts on the Virginia Peninsula have a set of rules on what guests can and cannot bring in, several leave tightening down the rules up to the show or performers. 

WYDaily asked major event venues and localities in the Peninsula whether they had clear bag policies — and were answered with a resounding “no” from nearly everyone.

The lack of clear bag policies doesn’t mean some entities aren’t thinking about it: William & Mary spokeswoman Erin Zagursky said a policy similar to ODU’s has come up in conversation. 

“There has been discussion about adopting a clear bag policy for athletic events, but a plan for implementation isn’t yet in place,” Zagursky said, adding the discussion was amongst senior administrators and lead operations staff.

William & Mary, which has large athletic events, hosts local graduation ceremonies and operates the Kimball Theatre. Officials said it does not currently have a clear bag policy in place.

Restrictions are often listed in news releases or on signs at venue doors. The commencement website also includes “encouraged and prohibited items.”

“The safety of all those who visit, study and work at W&M is of utmost importance to us, and we are always looking for ways to improve and bolster our security measures,” Zagursky wrote in an email.

Williamsburg events

Other events in Williamsburg include the Williamsburg Live concert series and other festivals, many of which are on public property but handled by outside agencies. 

City spokeswoman Lee Ann Hartmann said many event regulations are set by the organizers, rather than the city. Neither the city nor James City County have clear bag policies for events, Hartmann and county spokeswoman Renee Dallman confirmed. 

The Virginia Arts Festival organization hosts a handful of events each year, including Williamsburg Live.

The organization, which runs events around the Hampton Roads, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Williamsburg Live did not have a clear bag policy for its inaugural concert series this June on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, but restricted other items such as chairs and umbrellas over a certain size, weapons, coolers and flammable items.

Hampton and Newport News

At Hampton Coliseum, the entertainment venue has general guidelines.

“It typically depends on what show is coming through,” said Derek Page, spokesman for the coliseum.

Page said attendees can keep a bag “on their person” and coliseum bans certain items such as weapons, laser pointers, selfie sticks, smoking and outside food and beverages. The complete policy can be found on the Hampton Coliseum website

Jim Hanchett, spokesman for Christopher Newport University, wrote in an email the university does not have a clear bag policy.

It’s unclear if the university plans to implement one anytime soon. For the past two summers, the college stadium has been used as a venue for the Lionsbrige FC soccer team, a competitor in the USL League Two, the top amateur men’s soccer league in North America.

Hanchett attached the university’s tailgating policy to the email which states the person who buys the tailgating pass known as a “social host” is responsible for his or her guests.

Some prohibited items in the tailgate zone include fire pits, glass, generators, kegs, bicycles, skateboards, hoverboards, scooters, go-carts and golf carts.

Jim Heath, athletics for Hampton University, was not immediately available for comment. It’s unclear what the university’s policies are when it comes to clear bag policies at public venues.

Bag checks, metal detectors

A clear bag policy aims to make it easier to see the contents of a bag or purse without security having to sift through with a stick or latex gloves.

William & Mary has regular bag checks for athletics events such as men’s basketball and football games.

Prohibited items include outside food and drinks, coolers, bags larger than one cubic foot, weapons and more — much like Virginia Arts Festival’s Williamsburg Live concert series. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is an amusement park and not specifically an event venue, but it does host seasonal shows and concerts throughout the year. 

Busch Gardens spokeswoman Cindy Sarko declined to discuss questions regarding a clear bag policy. Instead, she provided WYDaily with a statement from the park:

The statement reads: “The safety of our guests, ambassadors and animals is our top priority. While we do not discuss specific details of our security measures for safety reasons, our security procedures for both employee and guest facing areas are continuously under review and refinement and we are always looking at ways to improve.  We also work closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement to ensure that we are up-to date-on any potential threats to the safety of our park or guests and to make sure that we respond timely and appropriately to those potential threats.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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