After University of Minnesota football fans enjoyed their first season of legal beer at TCF Bank Stadium, some legislators wonder whether it’s time to open the taps for the U’s hockey and basketball fans, too.
Since the Legislature legalized beer and wine sales at the stadium last year, football fans have downed almost a million dollars’ worth of beer. Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, figures that if sales at one venue are good, expanding beer sales beyond the suites and premium seats at Mariucci and Williams arenas could be even better.
“Beer for all worked pretty well at the Bank,” he told fellow legislators on the House commerce committee on Tuesday night. “I think beer for all could work pretty well at the rest of the stadiums, too.”
Not so fast, say university officials. “We do have a couple of concerns,” said university lobbyist Todd Iverson. The university, he said, would like to wait to study how alcohol affects the games at the stadium before expanding to other venues. “This isn’t saying we’re opposed to the bill, but we have concerns about it being implemented this year.”
The hockey and basketball arenas, Iverson said, present challenges. More games are played in Mariucci and Williams, and many are played at night, factors that might make the university more reluctant to bring alcohol into the postgame mix.
“It’s also a very different fan experience at these two venues than there is at the football stadium,” Iverson said. “At the arena, you’re very close to the participants.”
Beer sales have been brisk at the stadium, Iverson conceded, with an estimated $990,000 in sales in the first season alone. But only about $16,000 in profits ended up in the university’s pocket, he said.
“We are happy that our fans had a pleasurable experience and enjoyed the opportunity,” he said. “What we’re asking for is that we do the two-year experiment on football at the stadium, we’ll come back ... and talk to you about this. We just want a little time to think about this.”
Despite the university’s reluctance, Schoen said all that stadium beer is giving the economy a boost.
“That’s almost a million dollars’ worth of beer,” Schoen said. “That beer had to be manufactured, that beer had to be delivered, that beer had to be sold at the stadium and those are all jobs.”
He estimates that the state reaped about $80,000 in tax revenues from a single season of beer sales in a single university stadium.
“Am I going to fix the budget hole with this? Absolutely not,” he said, “but it’s still jobs, it’s still tax revenue.”
Schoen says he’s confident the university can come up with a plan to allow beer for all at more of its venues, if the Legislature greenlights his bill.
The stadium beer bill was accepted for possible inclusion in this year’s omnibus House liquor bill.