A Rant About Water Security

Rachel Gibson

This water bottle fascism is getting ridiculous. My friend Amy was stopped at the gate by security on Saturday. Her crime: One or two "teeth" had come disengaged from the seal on her just-purchased water bottle and it was deemed "open."

Nationals Park policy states, "Metal, plastic or glass containers of any kind (except factory-sealed, plastic water bottles, no larger than 1 liter and juice boxes) are prohibited at Nationals Park.Only one bottle of water per person will be permitted."

Amy was told to either throw her new bottle of water away or drink the whole thing before she could enter. "But the security guard was very polite about it," she said.

So she drank the whole bottle outside the gate. And since no containers of any kind are allowed, she squashed it down and folded it into her pocket so she could bring it in for refills. (Refills were her sole reason for buying the bottle. $4 is too much to pay inside the ballpark and you need more than one bottle for a three-hour game on a hot day).

On Memorial Day, my friend Heather and I walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the ballpark and got pretty thirsty along the way. I had water with me, but didn't want to open it before getting to the ballpark. So we went thirsty until we entered the gates and could safely open the bottle.

I've seen several people open their bottles to take sips in the block between metro and the ballpark gate, only to have it confiscated because it's no longer "factory sealed." Take a look at the collection boxes at the gates on any given day. All water bottles, little else.

I mean, really. Do we really have to strategize like this to get a bottle of water "safely" into the game?

Let me tell you something, Mr. Nationals Management. While your security guards were scrutinizing water bottle tops closely enough to catch a couple of disengaged "teeth" on the seal (which, by the way, Amy didn't even see when she bought the thing), one of my friends and his buddies were bringing in entire flasks of alcohol. Another of my friends has been bringing in pepper spray to every single game she attends. And I once sailed through the gates with a steak knife unwittingly left in my lunch box. But, by God, that seal on my water bottle was intact.

There must have been some good reason for the policy. Maybe too many people were trying to sneak in water bottles filled with vodka, I don't know. But I think enforcement is getting a little over the top. It's the only thing security scrutinizes and I know I'm not the only fan noticing it.

This isn't about trying to get away with anything. I know there are lots of drink options at the park and there are water fountains everywhere (I counted 8 on the lower level alone). Once you do get your water bottle past the Gestapo, you can refill 'til the cows come home. And I know I should be grateful I can bring water to the park at all.


My point is, it just shouldn't be such a big deal. It's WATER. Man's most basic need in a notoriously hot and humid city. There are plenty of other safety issues that security guards should be minding. When expensive, EMPTY, water bottles are being confiscated while knives, pepper spray and flasks of alcohol are sailing through, I think it's time to rethink priorities a little.

By Rachel Gibson  |  June 24, 2008; 2:33 PM ET  | Category:  Rachel Gibson , Stadium Staff
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Comments

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As someone who has had friends bring in flasks, the guards don't check pockets of cargo shorts or pockets in jackets. Even still, the other day I went to a game with my wife and she walked in with her Nalgene bottle full of water without ever being asked to open her purse. She spent the game drinking out of it with not a single word being said to her even as ushers past us by. I'm not sure why the concern. If it's because of any type of security reason then why don't the guards check bags of food, make people open up their sandwiches to see what they are made of, etc...

Posted by: Work Husband #1 | June 24, 2008 2:34 PM

Agree 100%...this policy doesn't make a lot of sense.

A bit off topic, but does anyone know what happened to Emilie? She hasn't posted in nearly a month and I really enjoyed her contributions.

Posted by: SapphicHokieMom | June 24, 2008 2:38 PM

Like I said in a previous post, I have noticed a certain totalitarian undercurrent to the Nationals organization. Yes, sounds like Nationals Security personnel are more than qualified to work for the TSA! I might start wearing my Zapatista T-Shirt to the games in silent protest. Fight the Power, Rachel!

Posted by: El Rey | June 24, 2008 2:50 PM

The easiest approach if someone's being a jerk, is to walk around to one of the other gates or entrance points. They're not ALL idiots, just most of 'em.

Posted by: Chris | June 24, 2008 3:04 PM

The Mariners won't let you bring in anything to eat or drink. But blind TSA-like searches are dumb, especially if you can smuggle in other contraband.

Posted by: Ed Ramras | June 24, 2008 3:07 PM

Actually, Chris, the positive thing about this is that, in my experience anyway, they haven't really been jerks about it, thank goodness.

It just seems to be the ONLY thing they are looking for--seals on water bottles.

I'm curious if anyone HAS experienced rudeness with the water bottle scrutiny, though.

Posted by: Rachel | June 24, 2008 3:24 PM

Isn't this a theme on Grounds Crew? Stadium personnel that are as "nice as can be" as they inflexibly adhere to rules that almost certainly have an underlying purpose, but that aren't really implicated?

Posted by: Nats Are Killing Me | June 24, 2008 3:36 PM

The staff can be as nice as they want. If you have rules there should be a logical reason for them (either all or nothing, or if in the middle at least explain), and they should be implemented across the board. Again, if it's a security thing then the fact that so many of us can just walk in with whatever we want points to a problem (flasks, knifes, nalgene bottles, etc...). If it's not then what is it? It can't be revenue because they let you walk in with one as long as it is sealed.

Posted by: Work Husband #1 | June 24, 2008 3:45 PM

The policy at Nats Park is the same at almost every ballpark in the MLB (if not all). Please don't hate on the Nats because a security guard was actually doing his/her job.

Posted by: Evian | June 24, 2008 4:19 PM

So, we shouldn't question the underlying stupidity of the policy just because everyone else does it?

Stupidity spreads if left unchecked.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 24, 2008 4:42 PM

I agree the issue is the focus of the yellow-clad professionals manning the gate. If no outside drink is permitted and all bags and large pcokets must be checked, how are so many things getting in, but the easiest thing to look at, the seal on the water bottle is what is being enforced. I think it is because it takes time to really sift through a lunch bag, or a purse, but it take two seconds to notice that a bottle is not properly sealed. It's that easy.

That said, I've managed to get in once or twice with an already opened bottle, held at the top to cover the flawed seal and missing water. I was walking so purposefully, and pregnantly, that I suspect even the TSA would have let me through.

I'm not always one for breaking the rules, but not being able to open a bottle of water is a little intense (cause if it really is about vodka or other contraband making it into that bottle, I'll take my chances... there are plenty of intoxicated fans who buy their liquor on the other side of the gate that scare me, or at least make the game a little less enjoyable).

Posted by: Kyra | June 24, 2008 4:53 PM

I agree the issue is the focus of the yellow-clad professionals manning the gate. If no outside drink is permitted and all bags and large pcokets must be checked, how are so many things getting in, but the easiest thing to look at, the seal on the water bottle is what is being enforced. I think it is because it takes time to really sift through a lunch bag, or a purse, but it take two seconds to notice that a bottle is not properly sealed. It's that easy.

That said, I've managed to get in once or twice with an already opened bottle, held at the top to cover the flawed seal and missing water. I was walking so purposefully, and pregnantly, that I suspect even the TSA would have let me through.

I'm not always one for breaking the rules, but not being able to open a bottle of water is a little intense (cause if it really is about vodka or other contraband making it into that bottle, I'll take my chances... there are plenty of intoxicated fans who buy their liquor on the other side of the gate that scare me, or at least make the game a little less enjoyable).

Posted by: Kyra | June 24, 2008 4:54 PM

"The policy at Nats Park is the same at almost every ballpark in the MLB (if not all)."

Close, but wrong. You can bring your sodas into Camden Yards, if you'd like.

Posted by: Chris | June 24, 2008 8:25 PM

Fire Clint and use the few bucks you save to provide better training

Posted by: Solution | June 25, 2008 1:16 PM

Great post, especially since we've just been through 100 degree day games. I've twice managed to take in more than a single bottle, but I'm sure my time will come. What a ridiculous rule during a summer in Washington, DC. And what is the justification? To make more money on $4 bottles? If so, then why let even one bottle in?

The seal requirement is silly, but pretty easily dealt with. Just check your bottle before you pack them.

One fun tip for a hot day -- freeze your bottle the night before. A nice cool treat.

Posted by: Section 222 (not the view) | June 25, 2008 5:30 PM

I've gone to the point of when I buy a big pack of water from Costco that AT LEAST four tops come off completely intact. You can also find these tops at gas stations. I just prop those on the bottle. I have one cap that I've been using going on 5 years now for games all over the place. It looks sealed, but it's not.

What I really enjoy is going to Nissan with a few bottles of water with caps on them. Then I go to buy a beer and can't get the bottle because it's a hazard to the performer. Like I'm really going to hit the stage from the lawn with an empty beer bottle. I'll just chuck on of the 12 bottles of water I brought in.

And fire Clint.

One more thing, any more of this crap I'm getting from all sides from the people who are working at Nats Park and I'm giving up my season tickets.

Posted by: Sect. 112 | June 26, 2008 10:05 AM

One fun tip for a hot day -- freeze your bottle the night before. A nice cool treat.

Posted by: Section 222 (not the view) | June 25, 2008 5:30 PM

**********************
Funny you should say that. That's another reason to complain.

I used to freeze half a bottle of water and fill the rest with fresh water before leaving for the game. Can't do it now since I can't open it. Now my water's hot by the 2nd inning. Grrr.

Posted by: Rachel | June 26, 2008 10:49 AM

This article is more proof that people lack common sense and just complain for the sake of complaining. First, the policy of prohibited items cleary states only "factory sealed water bottles" can be admitted. It's on the website and it's in the free fan guide. I have never been to a stadium or arena where I could bring in an open container. Even my college with its 3,000 seat stadium would enforce the 'no-open container' rule. Why can't you just wait to get into the stadium before "ENGAGING" your lips on the water bottle. She had only feet to go but suddenly had the urge to twist the cap? Don't fault the security guard for doing his job and enforcing the Nats policy. If it's that big of a deal to have to pop open a water feet from the stadium gate, then complain to management. But stop using this "Grounds Crew" thing to rant and complain about silly issues that really aren't that big of a deal. Please, stop with the entitlements already - I'd rather you just stay home. Peace out.

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