For the third time in three years, a move to allow limited alcohol sales at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium has begun its journey through the Legislature.
The Senate’s Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee approved a proposal Wednesday to let the university – and not the Legislature – decide the issue.
In the past two years, legislators and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty have blocked the school’s attempts to only sell alcohol in the stadium’s premium seating areas. Some legislators had called the school’s plan “elitist”, and at one point had advocated that the school’s board of regents make alcohol available to everyone at the three-year-old stadium, or no one.
“Nothing like a little booze and football to wake people up,” joked Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, the proposal’s Senate author, as he spoke at a morning committee meeting. Michel argued that the decision should be left to the school, and not the Legislature.
With the Legislature now controlled by a Republican majority, and with Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, taking office in January, the proposal’s chances may be dramatically altered this year.
Dayton has not indicated his position on the issue.
But Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said there continued to be an “enormous hypocrisy” in the school’s push to only sell alcohol in the stadium’s premium seating. For more than two decades, Scheid said, alcohol had been made available throughout the Metrodome without problems when the school played its home football games there.
Kathryn Brown, the chief of staff to Robert Bruininks, the university’s president, said that should the plan be adopted by the Legislature school officials would recommend that alcohol be sold in the premium seating at not only TCF Bank Stadium but also at the school’s basketball and hockey arenas.
Michel's proposal would allow the university to sell alcohol at Northrop Auditorium, the football stadium and up to seven other on-campus locations.
Brown said the school had been forced to discount its premium seating pricing because it could not offer alcohol, and said the university had counted on revenue from the alcohol sales. Most Big 10 conference schools, said Michel, offered similar limited alcohol sales.
“This falls pretty low on everybody’s radar,” said Michel. “[But] we’ve kind of become the liquor control board for the University of Minnesota, particularly for the football stadium” and the Legislature had bigger issues to discuss.
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