What Place Does Alcohol Have in College Stadiums?

Kristopher FieckeCorrespondent IMay 23, 2010

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: A general view of the field taken during the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan State Spartans on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

You'd have to be ignorant, or a fool, to not understand alcohol's major role in college football's culture. 

Sure, not everybody drinks. But, a high percentage of fans enjoy an adult beverage, or two, as part of their pregame rituals and traditions.

I'm not talking about what goes on in the parking lot beforehand. That's between you, your chosen higher power and your ever-so-patient spouse waiting at home. 

I'm not talking about those binoculars around your neck, that may or may not be cleverly concealing some blended Canadian Whiskey, as you enter the stadium gates.

I'm talking about vendors roaming the stands in on-campus college football stadiums, hawking 7-dollar swill from Milwaukee and St. Louis (I never see any from Golden, Colorado, but that's a debate for another day).

That being said, the debate rages on about if, how, and when alcohol should be available in college football stadiums. 

The vast majority of schools don't sell beer to fans in their stadiums. But, is that the way it should be?

The University of Minnesota sold beer at its home games for the past 30 years, or so.  Well, that's not entirely true. Since the Gophers played at a facility off-campus, which they were merely a tenant in, the Gophers had little to no say as to what was available in the stands. 

Many uninformed fans thought it was commonplace for schools to sell beer in their stadiums.

When the Gophers moved back to campus last year, the administration thought they finally had the opportunity to control alcohol sales on their terms. Alcohol would be available to fans in the suites and club areas, but banned throughout the rest of the stadium. 

That plan had worked at other Gopher on-campus facilities for years, and would have gone swimmingly at TCF Bank Stadium. 

Businesses who purchased the expensive seats could entertain clients as they saw fit, and the University of Minnesota could enjoy the increased revenue from the sale of those seats. Everyone wins.

Or so the University thought. 

In its infinite wisdom, the state of Minnesota decided it needed to stick its nose where it didn't belong. The legislature decided that if booze was available to one patron, it had to be available to everyone. The notion of "getting what you pay for" was thrown right out the window.

The Univeristy's hand was forced. They certainly weren't going to sell beer to the students. So, the whole stadium went dry. Suites sat empty during a time when the extra revenue could have benefited the school during these trying economic times.

Not only was TCF Bank Stadium dry, but Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena's club levels, which had served alcohol in the premium areas for years, were now dry, as well.

I'm assuming a majority of the legislators who pushed for the ban had no idea that the University had the policy in place for decades, without a problem. 

The 2010 session of the legislature brought the issue back to the table. A bill that allowed the sale of alcohol in the premium areas was eventually passed by both the House and the Senate.

There's only problem. The new bill is a logistical nightmare. 

The bill allows alcohol in premium areas, with the caveat that it be made available to at least one-third of the patrons in the general area. 

I'd love to know exactly how they are going to determine what third will be eligible.

The problem is, it's never going to come to that. There is no chance the University agrees to these terms. Guess what's going to happen? 

Those high-roller suites are going to sit empty. Once again.

If you're a business owner wooing a potential client, you have two options for entertaining at new facilities in the Twin Cities. You can take your clients to a suite in Target Field, with top-shelf booze and gourmet eats. Or, you can shuttle them over to the University of Minnesota, where there's plenty of watered-down Country Time Lemonade and stale Old Dutch popcorn to go around. 

Which one would you choose?

This is just another case of government representatives being totally out of touch with the people they represent. Maybe it's not "fair" that everybody doesn't have access to certain types of drink or food. But, life's not fair. 

This isn't kindergarten. You can have a piece of candy even if you didn't bring enough for everybody. If you're paying a premium price, why aren't you entitled to premium benefits? The University needs money, and it's irresponsible to deny them the opportunity to earn it based on your definition of what's fair.

It works perfectly well in other places.

Booze is available in the premium areas of every Big Ten stadium outside of Columbus and Ann Arbor. I'm willing to bet the legislators pushing this bill didn't know that. 

These are mostly the same group of politicians that blasted the University for selling the naming rights to the stadium, implying that it "cheapened" college sports. 

Of course, I'd prefer it if they had named the stadium in some fashion to honor veterans or heroes. But, that's just not possible in this day and age.

Once again, the Minnesota State Legislature finds itself in the position of sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. If this revenue stream continues to go untapped, guess where the University is going to go to recoup its losses. 

Hello increased ticket prices. Hello increased parking fees. Hello tuition hikes.

Everyone loses. 

Well, except for the legislators, who get to pat themselves on the back thinking they've done something right.