November 20, 2008

Booze for select few

When TCF Bank Stadium opens for the start of the 2009 Gopher football season, gopher fans will leave behind the dull, grey interior of the Metrodome, the off-campus commute and the alcoholic beverages.

The University of Minnesota Board Of Regents voted Friday on the authorization of alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium, Mariucci Arena, Williams Arena. This vote is only for the restricted, premium seating areas of these sports venues. Currently alcohol is available free in these areas, but now they want to start charging money for booze instead of giving it away for free.

The common fans, who sit in the “cheap� seats, will still be out of luck when it comes to ordering a beer at a Gopher game on campus. The Metrodome served alcohol to any Joe six-pack that was of legal drinking age, but the Metrodome is a professional stadium located off-campus.

The Regents should be voting on whether any fan of legal drinking age can purchase alcohol at the games. By not allowing the common fan to drink at sporting events, they are helping their image, but only to people who do not attend the games or see the people tailgating beforehand. Allow alcohol sales to everyone of legal drinking age or disallow it completely, but the University would never do that because at the end of the day it’s all about money.

Most of the students already show up to the games with a beer buzz, if not completely wasted. I have friends who will get drunk before a basketball or hockey game, simply because they can’t drink during the game, and want to keep a buzz throughout.

As for the non-students who attend these events, they would be responsible drinkers for the most part, and would provide the University with large additional revenue from the sale of alcohol in these on-campus sports venues. This would be a simple way to generate revenue that would allow the University to do things like cancel its hiring pause.

The University already sells alcohol at Northrop auditorium for concerts; there are bars like Stub & Herbs and Downtime, which are located feet from the Universities boundaries.

Phil Esten, who works in the Intercollegiate Athletics department at the University of Minnesota, says there will definitely not be alcohol sold in the concourse or at concession stands in the stadium, however they will sell alcohol in the premium suites and luxury boxes.

Second-class citizens, or drunken buffoons might be the debate over whether to serve the common fan alcohol, but it just does not seem right that certain fans are deemed eligible to drink when others are not.

Another issue is tailgating.

The university has put together a tailgating committee that will discuss the issue of tailgating outside of the stadium and make recommendations to the board of regents.

According to Esten, one possible scenario the university is considering would be to set up tents in the parking lot where drinking would be allowed, and only adults who are legally able to drink could enter the tents.

There is still a chance that the university will disallow any alcohol in the parking lots because of concerns about underage drinking and binge drinking.

Obviously on game days there will be one huge party on University Avenue and in Dinkytown, so drunk fans will be something the University will be dealing with, regardless of whether alcohol is allowed in the parking lot or the concession stands.

Esten admits that the University of Minnesota is concerned about being perceived as a party school like the University of Wisconsin.

“Perception becomes reality and they have had problems with underage drinking at Camp Randall and that is something that we don’t want at the new stadium,� Esten said.

I was at Camp Randall stadium for the rivalry game on Saturday, and the fact is, that just felt like a better atmosphere than any home Gopher game I have ever been to. The University should quit being terrified of becoming something they might already be, a party school.

Every fan who is 21 should be able to drink and go to a college football game, but it appears this is a luxury reserved for the privileged, luxury box fans and starting in 2009 the Tim Brewster era could be brew-less for the average fan.