How problematic is stadium drinking?

The bill that would have allowed the U to sell alcohol in selected seats has essentially died, since it was not taken up by the Senate higher-education committee.

But I thought of it and the whole University of Minnesota's stadium-alcohol-sales flap when I read this Chicago Sun-Times piece on the prevalence of problem drunks -- yes, that includes college students -- at America's stadium games.

It mentions research by the U:

At the University of Minnesota, researchers became interested in the topic of drunkenness at games after seeing a steady stream of small news items involving assaults, car accidents and rowdy behavior by drunken fans.

Among the findings from the school's studies since 2005:

  • Alcohol laws and guidelines at stadiums are poorly enforced: Researchers said 74 percent of people pretending to be drunk were served and they were three times more likely to buy it from a vendor working the stands than a concession booth.

  • Thousands of fans leaving games and getting into their cars are drunk: Researchers took breathalyzer tests of 362 fans at 13 baseball and three NFL games and found 8 percent of them -- 1 in 12 -- were legally drunk, while 40 percent of them had at least something to drink. That 8 percent, when multiplied by the thosands of people attending games nationwide, leads to a staggering number.

"I hear from people who'd been going to games their entire life, they say, 'I don't go to games anymore,'" said Darin Erickson, who worked on the University of Minnesota studies. "They tell stories about people swearing blatantly, throwing things and fights. It's not always actual assaults, but some of the people I talk to just aren't comfortable with the environment. And it seems that they're often saying it's attributable to general drunkenness."

It's not just a problem at pro games. Associate Professor Traci Toomey of the U's School of Public Health told National Public Radio in 2009 that colleges are having a hard time controlling it, especially among tailgaters:

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"The campus administrators really hear it from the alumni who come back to the campus for that — the joy of tailgating and then the sporting event. I think that's a real issue for some of these campuses that are struggling with these alcohol issues with their students."

Regarding the TCF Bank Stadium issue, I double-checked and asked U spokesman Dan Wolter what the status was of the stadium drinking bill, which effectively allowed the U to sell alcohol only in premium seats.

He told me:

I believe the legislation to return the authority to determine whether and how alcohol was served in campus athletic venues was referred to the Senate Committee on Higher Education, which never took it up.

That seems to be the case.