Debate rages over alcohol at TCF Bank Stadium

A bill passed this Legislative session would require the sale of alcohol throughout the stadium.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the omnibus liquor bill on May 20 , which in part mandates that alcohol be available to all legal-age buyers in the TCF Bank Stadium âÄî not just those in premium seats, as previously planned. But donâÄôt make plans yet to stand in line for a brew on opening day. University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininiks told the Board of Regents on May 8 that âÄúit is not a recommendation you can expect to hear from me.âÄù Bruininks has opposed selling alcohol to the bowl of the stadium, which includes around 20 percent students . âÄúOver the years, we have avoided selling or even advertising alcohol in areas with significant student presence,âÄù Bruininks said at the Board of Regents meeting. âÄúI just didnâÄôt feel that was in keeping with the values of the University of Minnesota.âÄù University Athletic Director Joel Maturi said the UniversityâÄôs alcohol sales plan is not solidified yet. âÄúWeâÄôre looking at options that would best serve the people attending the games,âÄù he said. In the UniversityâÄôs original plans for the stadium, alcohol would have been sold to ticket holders in premium seating areas: suites, indoor and outdoor club seats and loge boxes. Selling alcohol in premium seating areas is common in other Big Ten schools and nationwide, Maturi said. No other Big Ten school sells alcohol in general seating areas. Maturi said the majority of premium seats have already been sold for the season âÄî most before the signing of the omnibus liquor bill changed the promise of alcohol sales. âÄúWeâÄôve sold the premium seats under the guise that weâÄôd sell alcohol to them,âÄù Maturi said. âÄúThe question is whether those seats are as valuable as we sold them as.âÄù This issue led to talk that the University might serve âÄî but not sell âÄî alcohol to those in premium seats. This is currently done at Mariucci and Williams Arenas, which will also be affected by the bill. But because of the egalitarian goals of the bill, liquor would have to be given away to everyone in the 50,000 seat stadium , which is not likely to happen, Maturi said. Rep. Tom Rukavina , DFL-Virginia, wrote the preliminary legislation that became the omnibus liquor bill. âÄúThere was an overwhelming feeling in the Legislature that what the Board of Regents did was elitist,âÄù Rukavina said. âÄúIf you can afford to sit in the premium seats, you can drink chardonnay, and if you sit in the cheap seats, you get water or pop âĦ We didnâÄôt think that was right.âÄù The Legislature doesnâÄôt plan to counter whatever the University decides, Rukavina said, adding that âÄúthere are more important things to worry about.âÄù University spokesman Dan Wolter said University administration was surprised by the bill, âÄúparticularly considering the timing of it, with the [Dinkytown riots] around the same time.âÄù Sociology senior Paul Buchanan said he doesnâÄôt think BruininksâÄô plan will affect underage alcohol consumption. âÄúI think students will find a way to drink anyway,âÄù he said. Others predict that, in the wake of massive budget cuts, the University wonâÄôt be able to resist the potential income of alcohol sales at the stadium. âÄúIf they want to make money, theyâÄôll end up doing it,âÄù University sophomore Andy Stewart said. A percentage of any alcohol sales would go to the athletics department, Maturi said, but he doesnâÄôt anticipate a huge financial gain for the department from them. âÄúThe athletic department is not pressing for alcohol sales because it would be a significant increase in concession revenue,âÄù he said. âÄúOur bigger concern is the value of the seating.âÄù University of Minnesota Police Department Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said University police are hoping alcohol will not be sold or served in the general seating areas. âÄúThat will make our jobs much easier,âÄù he said. University police have been policing the Metrodome during Gopher football games for the past several years, where alcohol is sold as part of the leasing agreement, Miner said. âÄúWe keep pretty busy in the first half of the game dealing with intoxicated individuals,âÄù he said. An incident last fall in which a couple had sex in a Metrodome bathroom stall is an example of the kind of situation that could be avoided by not selling alcohol, Miner said. âÄúIt probably would not have occurred if those individuals were sober,âÄù he said. âÄúThose were both of-age individuals with alcohol that was legally purchased at the stadium or elsewhere âĦ Generally, we donâÄôt have problems with people in a sporting environment who are sober.âÄù Miner said, however, that there is a problem with people who drink before going to sporting events. âÄúThe flip side is: The alcohol-related issues we dealt with were probably individuals who drank alcohol prior to even coming to the stadium,âÄù he said. Men and women are equal contributors to alcohol-related incidents at the Metrodome, Miner has found. Typically, intoxicated people are found vomiting in restroom stalls. âÄúNot the sort of thing that I think someone looks forward to seeing or hearing,âÄù Miner said. âÄúThere are families. There are young children at these events. The best game-day experience is what weâÄôre hoping for.âÄù