University of Tennessee Police Chief Troy Lane and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch held a brief press conference this afternoon to announce a total ban on backpacks at UT football games, and the increase security measures that'll be in effect during the Labor Day weekend.
The same bag size restrictions will be in place again this year--your bag must fit in a 12" by 12" by 12" box--and medical and diaper bags will still be exempt from these restriction. But this year, absolutely no backpacks or book bags will be allowed into the game, even if they're within the size restrictions.
"If it looks like a book bag, we're going to consider it a book bag. Don't bring it in," Lane said.
Lane also mentioned the creation of the anonymous tip line. UTPD partnered with Tip411, a national anonymous text program, to facilitate convenient tips on suspicious behavior. (You text UTPD and the tip to 847411.)
"We really want people to be aware of what's going on around them. We really want them to report any suspicious behavior that they see, make sure that you call 911, call our administrative line, or if nothing else, send us a tip via text," Lane said.
The Boston Marathon bombing was at the forefront of both police forces' minds in deciding to ban backpacks.
"We've been discussing this for years on whether or not we should allow backpacks. And obviously, the incident in Boston was an eye-opener. That certainly got our attention again toward the caution we need to take," Chief Rausch said.
All bags brought into the stadium will continue to be searched.
"Backpacks will not be allowed in Neyland Stadium. Hopefully that's very clear. We will have all of our officers that are working traffic posts, we will have all the folks working parking garages, everyone that's part of this event will be reminding you, 'You may not bring a backpack to Neyland Stadium.' Hopefully we can get the message out because there will be nowhere to store these items. You bring it to the gate, you're either going to have to take it back to your vehicle or it will have to be disposed of," Rausch said.
Rausch also gave the heads up that there will be increased police patrols along the interstates and main arterial roads throughout Knoxville starting on Friday evening and lasting through early Monday. So don't speed, drive recklessly, or drive drunk (duh).
A handful of roads will be closed for Boomsday, including:
- Neyland Drive (both directions) from Walnut Street to Lake Loudoun Boulevard from Midnight on Saturday until 6 a.m. Monday
- The Gay Street Bridge to both pedestrians and vehicles starting 30 minutes prior to the fireworks show, and no one will be allowed to remain on the bridge during the show
- Hill Avenue to Summitt Hill Drive via State Street.
"For motorists, patience will be the order of the day. Several hundred thousand pedestrians will be in the downtown area over the extended holiday weekend," Rausch said. He also "implored" people in cars to wear their seat belts. " It truly does save lives. The vast majority of fatalities are due to people who didn't wear their seat belts."