Page 2 of 2 Previous
Legislators said, "All or none!" Now the University of Minnesota is responding: "None!"
President Robert Bruininks will recommend today that alcohol be banned from the new on-campus football stadium and other campus sports arenas.
The proposal comes somewhat reluctantly, after legislators passed and Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a law requiring fans in TCF Bank Stadium's cheap seats to have the same access as those in the suites.
"We had to make a judgment on how best to live with that," Bruininks said Thursday. "In the end, this is the best, most responsible, most principled position we can take."
The policy would also affect premium seating in basketball's Williams Arena and hockey's Mariucci Arena, where alcohol has long been served for free but not sold. Those venues would now go dry on game days.
No Big Ten school serves alcohol in its general seating and the U was not about to become the first, Bruininks said. Yes, fans could buy beer in the Metrodome, but with football returning to campus, the rules have changed.
"We are bringing the stadium back to the University of Minnesota," he said. "We're not bringing it to a professional sports venue."
The U had asked the Legislature for permission to sell alcohol in 5 percent of the stadium's seating -- boxes, suites and club rooms that cost $1,800 or more -- in part so it could compete with professional venues.
Backing off booze will "definitely" have a financial impact, according to a U news release.
Bruininks said selling alcohol in premium seating could have "insured more robust revenues ... and better protected our ability to retire the debt" on the building. But he's optimistic that the U will be able to keep current ticket holders through "incentives" that he declined to detail.
The Board of Regents will review Bruinink's recommendation today and could take action at its June 24 meeting.
When the board first discussed selling alcohol in December, two regents voted against the idea. Regent Anthony Baraga said then that the new stadium "gives us a chance to have an alcohol-free stadium."
"We could be the poster child," he said.
The NCAA discourages schools from selling alcohol at games and has banned the sale of alcohol at championships.
But many schools allow alcohol sales in their exclusive seating. Some schools don't sell drinks but will allow ticket holders to stock their suites' bars before games.
U alumnus Ross Oden of St. Louis Park had written the regents arguing that it was unfair to treat fans differently and agrees with the "all or none" position the Legislature set.
"If alcohol abuse was really the reason behind it, they'd ban it entirely," he said Thursday. Bruininks' proposal to do just that "suggests that he really is concerned about students in the general seats rather than the people in the suites."
Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, disagrees with the decision. She said the ban could drive binge drinking underground and cause people to binge drink before games.
"I assume people will bring flasks with them or they'll do something else if they're intent on drinking," said Scheid, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees liquor licenses. "If people are going to abuse alcohol, they're going to do it."
Bruininks said he doesn't "believe people will drink more simply because we're not serving," and pointed out that obviously intoxicated fans will be refused admittance or asked to leave.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.