There probably won't be many complaints about the new carry-in restrictions that the Maryland Jockey Club will institute for this year's Preakness weekend. The Boston Marathon bombings have put everyone in the big-crowd business on a heightened state of alert, so everyone should expect to stand in some long lines at Pimlico and feel safer for it.
It's sad that everyday life has come to this, but the Preakness is one of the nation's biggest single-day sporting events, so it has to be treated as a high-value target for terrorism. The days of dragging a giant Igloo cooler full of beer into the infield ended a few years ago. Now, you're also going to get wanded at the entrance and you won't be able to bring in a backpack or duffel bag full of Doritos or other less-attractive meal options.
Infield partiers will be allowed to bring in a clear plastic cooler that's no more than 28"x15"x"17 (but no beverages of any kind) and grandstand ticket holders will be allowed an 18"x18" clear plastic container of cooler (but no alcoholic beverages). There also are restrictions on the size of cameras and lenses that can be brought into the race track and a ban on laser lights and pointers for fans who want to hold a corporate sales meeting between races.
There are all sorts of other things you can't do, like bring in fireworks, weapons, metal furniture, wagons, ladders, raised platforms, large circus animals, tents or barbeque equipment, but those restrictions are not new. My advice would be to come with your wallet, a pair of sunglasses and just enough clothing to avoid arrest.
The Jockey Club took some heat for its decision in 2009 to stop allowing infield fans to bring their own alcoholic beverages into the facility, but substituted a "bottomless" mug promotion that has become popular with everyone but puritanical Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd. The latest restrictions may leave fans with little choice but to buy more in-house concessions, but I don't think this is some cynical money grab. Of course, I paid $180 to see half of The Who at the
Hollywood Bowl a couple of years ago, so who am I to judge.
I'll just let Jockey Club president Tom Chukas explain this himself:
"Each year, we spend considerable time working with federal, state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies to ensure the safety of all our fans, which remains our number one
priority. Collectively, we feel these changes will address concerns fans may have following the Boston tragedies," Chuckas said in a prepared statement. "We ask that everyone please read carefully our security procedures and policies, so that guests may enjoy Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days in a safe and secure manner with a minimum of inconvenience."