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No backpacks or livestreaming: New football season brings new restrictions at J. Fred Johnson stadium

Rick Wagner • Aug 15, 2018 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — No livestreaming videos, no backpacks, no oversized stadium seats, no outside food or drink and no re-entry without a new ticket. 

Starting this week, football Friday nights at J. Fred Johnson Stadium at Dobyns-Bennett High School will have a series of new restrictions added to existing ones. Kingsport City Schools Athletics and Activities Director Larry Shively said Wednesday the policies are “not uncommon” in high school football and are generally “best practices.”

In addition, he is trying to spread the word about parking limitations caused by the construction of the Science and Technology Center at D-B, a project that has changed traffic flow around the stadium and prompted all designated handicapped spaces to be moved to the Memorial Park parking area, known to many as the former site of the Highway Patrol building, at the corner of Eastman Road and Fort Henry Drive. Access will be from Fort Henry Drive. Also, no pedestrians will be allowed through the track area for about three weeks while it is being resurfaced.

Another change, Shively said, is that all bags and purses will be subject to search by the Kingsport Police Department, security guards or school administrators at each entrance. As always, tobacco, weapons, alcohol, controlled substances and umbrellas are prohibited.

“We haven’t gone down the clear bag path yet, but we’ll probably do that next year,” Shively said. “We want to make sure our students and guests are safe.”

He said the new changes, along with old rules, are sent to athletic directors of visiting teams at least a week before the game so they can be distributed to visiting fans.

“The first year will be the most difficult,” Shively said of the changes, to be disseminated on new signage at the stadium.

Kickoff in the game with visiting Greeneville High School is at 7:30 p.m.

No pets are allowed — only documented service animals — and artificial noisemakers, bicycles, skateboards and balls of any type also are banned. Violators of stadium policies will be asked to leave without a ticket refund.

Although drones are not mentioned in a flier about the policies and prohibited items, Shively said they are not allowed except for ones the school system authorizes for photos or video.

As for some specific rules and the reasons behind them:

BACKPACK BAN, INSPECTION OF BAGS

Many professional and college stadiums across the country already have both of these policies in place, most geared toward thwarting would-be terrorists. Shively said the policies also would keep fans from bringing in prohibited items such as weapons and alcohol. Science Hill High School recently announced a ban on backpacks starting this season and the inspection of purses and diaper bags. Coolers and large bags are not allowed.

HANDICAPPED PARKING MOVED

Since the construction project took all the previously designated handicapped parking areas, Shively said the Memorial Park lot will be used this year with the permission of the city. That will allow access to a ramped entrance to the stadium. Next year, after the construction is finished, he said some new handicapped parking is planned in front of the D-B addition.

LIVESTREAM VIDEOS, OUTSIDE FOOD

Shively stressed that football, band and other activities depend on revenues from the games. He said livestream videos, such as Facebook Live from fans as well as the media, can encourage people to stay home, especially on cold or rainy nights. He said some media that accompanied visiting teams have set up cameras on the sidelines for livestreams without asking permission or inquiring about the guidelines. He said the school system will provide short Facebook Live videos of events leading up to the game and other selected snippets, but livestreaming is not allowed.

Shively said outside food or drink never was specifically prohibited, but the proceeds support student activities. Also, he said the change will make it easier to enforce the no-alcohol policy.

NO OVERSIZED STADIUM SEATS

Shively said the new policy on oversized seats would not prohibit smaller folding seats, but it is targeted toward larger, lawn chair-type seats with armrests and cupholders that have a hard time fitting in the assigned seats. He said the ban also applies to general admission bench seating, including the visitors’ side and south end zone. Portable headers and fans also are not allowed.

NO FREE RE-ENTRY, TICKETS TO BE SOLD PAST START OF HALFTIME

Traditionally, tickets are required for entry to the game up until the start of halftime, but he said that period will be extended, although Shively doesn’t know exactly how long it would be. He said the rationale is that someone could go out to their vehicle and bring weapons or other prohibited items into the stadium. He also said ticket sales help support the student programs.

Smoking and tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, are prohibited in the stadium. He said those who leave to use tobacco would have to buy a new ticket or wait until whenever ticket sales cease.

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