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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
The University of Minnesota is ready to make beer and wine sales a permanent fixture at Gopher football games.
After a two-year experiment, university officials found "no significant increase" in alcohol-related incidents at TCF Bank Stadium, according to a report this week to the Board of Regents. In fact, there were fewer police calls about rowdy or drunken fans in 2013 than in 2010, two years before the on-site beer and wine sales began.
"It really has not been the problem that some might have expected it would be," Vice President Pamela Wheelock said.
University officials, who had once resisted the idea of alcohol sales because of concerns about student drinking, now say that they want to continue the sales after the pilot project expires in July. The plan would require legislative approval.
"It seems to be a success," Wheelock said.
Last fall, police reported 59 alcohol-related incidents at the stadium, compared with 77 in 2010. In 2011, the year before alcohol sales began, 57 incidents were reported.
"There was no significant increase in problem behavior," Wheelock said. In light of that experience, she added, "we're fine making this work."
The university took in $181,678 as its share of the profits on just over $1 million in beer and wine sales during the 2013 season, according to the report.
In March, after the first season, the university initially reported a $15,000 loss on alcohol sales because of high start-up costs. But after renegotiating its contract with the vendor, the university ended up with $21,118 in net profits for 2012, Wheelock said. The funds go to the university's athletics program.
Wheelock said there are no plans to add hard liquor, or expand beer and wine sales at other venues. The university allows limited sales in the "club areas" of Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena, but not in general seating.
The issue of alcohol sales had been a hot-button issue since TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009. Initially, the university wanted to limit alcohol sales to "premium seats," in order to keep it away from students. But legislators objected, insisting that fans in all parts of the stadium should have equal access.
In 2012, the university agreed to a two-year pilot test. It allowed wine and beer sales at three designated locations at the football stadium, starting an hour before kickoff and stopping at the end of halftime.
The feedback from fans, Wheelock said, has been "pretty positive."
Wheelock said the university took extra steps to prevent potential problems, including limiting purchases to two beverages per customer and training the sales staff "in identifying issues of overconsumption and intoxication." It also stepped up security.
The report concluded that the alcohol sales had no negative effect on surrounding neighborhoods, in part because of increased police presence on game days.
At the same time, the university report notes that college drinking has always been a problem nationwide, especially on game days. And that's true whether or not alcohol is sold on site.
"So often," Wheelock said, "it relates to people's behavior even before they come into the building."
Maura Lerner · 612-673-7384