University regents approve alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium

Waiting for the game
Fans wait outside the gates at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Monday, Dec. 20, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

It's official. Gophers fans can drink beer — and maybe a little wine — in TCF Bank Stadium when the University of Minnesota's football season starts this fall.

University regents today approved a two-year trial allowing alcohol consumption at the campus stadium, with some restrictions. Fans won't be able to buy any hard liquor. They can only buy two beverages at a time. Drinks may be taken back to seating area. But the concession booths will be at two locations: on the West Plaza and an overflow area near Gate A.

The scarcity of locations will be an inconvenience to some people, Regent Dean Johnson told the board.

"You're 72 years old, and you're sitting up in section 218, row 32. And you go down to the beer garden," Johnson said. "You're either going to have your beer drunk by the time you get back up there, or ... it's a long ways."

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The booze will flow beginning an hour before kick-off and will stop at the conclusion of halftime.

Also, alcohol will be served in the premium seating areas of Williams and Mariucci arenas during intercollegiate athletic events.

University officials described the plan as a compromise with the state Legislature. When the issue first came up, lawmakers wanted alcohol served in at least a third of the general seating area.

The university found policing alcohol use under such requirements unworkable. School officials wanted to serve alcohol only in premium seats and suites. The school ended up not serving alcohol at all.

After recently passed legislation called for alcohol sales, the university considered a beer garden-style drinking area.

But Amy Phenix, chief of staff to the university president, said U of M instead decided to let people take drinks back to their seats.

"It's less concentrated. When you get a concentrated group of people drinking and they can only drink in one place, they tend to drink more," Phenix said. "The bad behavior of one person can fuel the bad behavior of other people."

Phenix said the university will watch how things progress over the next two years. She said it is premature to say what could happen after that.

Through alcohol concessions and the resulting boosted suite sales, Phenix said the university expects to earn up to an additional $1.5 million annually.