Tuesday, May 13, 2014
B1G ADs discuss alcohol sales at games
By Adam Rittenberg
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Minnesota state legislature approved alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium more than two years ago, making Minnesota the first Big Ten school to allow beer in one of its facilities.
Minnesota remains the only Big Ten school with such a policy, but it might not be alone for long. There's some momentum at Maryland to allow alcohol sales at athletic events. There are alcohol sales at other major-conference programs such as West Virginia, and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said this week that while the SEC prohibits in-stadium alcohol sales, he thinks the policy will change eventually.
Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium is the only football venue in the Big Ten that allows alcohol sales.
Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague, speaking Tuesday at the Big Ten meetings, said more of his AD colleagues are asking him about Minnesota's alcohol-sales policy.
"Now vs. last year or the year before, it's become more of an issue," Teague said. "Some are considering it."
Big Ten athletic directors are concerned about football attendance and particularly student attendance, which has declined nationally in recent years. Illinois AD Mike Thomas admits that the link between alcohol sales and student attendance, while not a top discussion point, is generating some attention.
"We have a lot of 11 [a.m.] football games and I go to our campus town area and I always stop at Starbucks around 8:30 or 9 o'clock before I show up at the stadium," Thomas said. "There's already a line out most of our student bars. I'm not sure that's a great field test, but ..."
Thomas came to Illinois from Cincinnati, which permits alcohol sales at football and men's basketball games.
"It's a topic that comes up," he said, "but more often than not, it's tied to the student piece."
Although Minnesota actually lost money in its first year of alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium, Teague said the number of alcohol-related incidents in the stadium has dropped, possibly because fans know they can drink during games rather than loading up beforehand.
Minnesota allows beer sales in a specific area of the stadium from an hour before kickoff until halftime.
"It's really been pretty darn smooth," Teague said.
Other Big Ten programs are more hesitant about the possibility of alcohol sales, in part because of geography.
"We're 100 miles from anything," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "And so people are driving farther. ... We love night games, but we're very sensitive about our 8 o'clock games because you're driving longer; we have people with that traffic out of State College not getting home til 3 or 4 in the morning, and I guess the argument is, 'How long does it take you to consume too much?'"
Most Big Ten schools remain in Penn State's camp, but if attendance trends continue and students continue to stay away, they might need to shift their approach.