Bill could open door for liquor sales at stadium

The regents would likely allow alcohol only in premium seating areas.

Michael Zittlow

Liquor vendors might move into TCF Bank Stadium next year âÄî though they probably wouldnâÄôt be selling to everyone.
The Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would allow the University of Minnesota Board of Regents to decide where, when and if alcoholic beverages can be sold at the stadium.
The bill would lift a current legislative mandate on the stadium that bars alcohol sales unless they are accessible to at least one-third of the general seating.
The Board wants alcohol to be available for premium seats in suites, boxes and club rooms, Kathryn Brown, chief of staff for University President Bob Bruininks, said. The board wants to prohibit liquor sales in general areas of the stadium to make premium seats more attractive and prevent underage drinking.
Premium seats make up less than one-third of the stadium.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the bill prevents the Legislature from micromanaging decisions that should be made by the University.
This is the third time in three years that efforts at the Capitol have attempted to open the door for liquor sales at TCF Bank Stadium.
The current bill would also permit limited liquor sales at seven other University buildings. Mariucci and Williams arenas could be among those, Brown said.
TCF Bank Stadium was designed to accommodate alcohol vendors but only in premium seating areas, Brown said. In indoor club rooms and seats with catered service, there are concession stands that are equipped to serve alcohol.
The University had to reduce prices for stadium suites and premium seats due to the alcohol ban, costing the school between $1 million and $1.5 million, the University estimated last year.
As the Legislature plans to cut University funds, it is vital to look at other ways of generating revenue, Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said.
But the UniversityâÄôs policy on only allowing alcohol to be sold to premium seats is âÄúhypocrisyâÄù Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said.
Scheid said everyone who is of legal age should be able to buy a beer if liquor is available at the stadium, even if they donâÄôt have premium seats.
For the two decades that the Gophers played at the Metrodome, alcohol was made available to everyone, Scheid said.
Michel said it should be up to the Board of Regents to decide the policies for University facilities, not the Legislature. He also said the majority of Big Ten schools allow limited alcohol sales.
If the bill passes, regents Chairman Clyde Allen said he could not speculate on whether the board would address the issue before football season.
Still, he said heâÄôs glad the legislation was introduced. Barring the regents from making decisions for the stadium was a âÄúpoor approachâÄù from the Legislature, Allen said.
The bill was referred to the Senate Higher Education Committee.