Preakness 2018 attendees face stricter regulations on outside food, drink

Infielders: Leave the outside food at home.

Grandstanders: A picnic’s OK, but no outside beverages.

This year’s Preakness spectators face stricter regulations on what they can bring in to Pimlico Race Course. Outside food is no longer allowed in the infield, and water bottles and sodas — previously allowed in the grandstand — will be banned from all areas of the racetrack, confirmed David Joseph, the publicist for the Maryland Jockey Club.

“They’re slowly taking things away,” said Rachel Niemeyer of Crownsville, who says she will be attending the Preakness for the last time this year.

Her family has been going to the race for 15 years — since the days when patrons were even allowed to bring beer and wine to the infield. That practice ended in 2009, when the Maryland Jockey Club announced that attendees could no longer haul their own alcohol. The decision drew heavy criticism from attendees.

But last year’s Preakness saw a record attendance of 140,327. And the move to ban outside alcohol has also been credited with taming the debauchery of the infield, as the jockey club has since emphasized music over bacchanalia. (Now, officials are aiming to coax InfieldFest attendees to pay more attention to the horse races.)

Still, Niemeyer said she’s fed up with the restrictions, as well as rising ticket prices.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that they’re no longer allowing you to bring in bottled water,” she said. In years past, she and her husband would freeze water bottles and use them to keep their picnic lunch cold during the day. They avoid buying food at Pimlico since, she said, “It’s pretty much all fried food and it’s very expensive.”

However, Joseph said, patrons can bring empty water bottles to fill up at free water fountains on-site.

Niemeyer said she made sure to read the fine print, but she imagines many other people are unaware of the new rules, adding, “I just envision this enormous pile of bottled water when they start confiscating everything.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Tim Prudente and Wesley Case contributed to this article.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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