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Opinion | Can’t we all agree we should sell beer in college stadiums?

There’s nothing quite like kicking back on a Saturday afternoon, cracking open a beer, and watching the Michigan State Spartans score a touchdown against a rival.

three headshots
State Rep. Graham Filler is serving his second term in the Michigan House representing residents of Clinton and Gratiot counties. State Rep. Joe Tate is serving his second term representing part of Detroit’s Lower East Side, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe City and Grosse Pointe Farms. Sen. Curtis Hertel lives in East Lansing and represents a portion of Ingham County in the Michigan Senate. (Courtesy photos)

Unfortunately, state laws prohibiting alcohol sales inside college stadiums mean fans who want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while watching have no choice but to catch the game on TV. If you want to experience a game at Spartan Stadium or the Big House, you’re forced to finish your beer before you enter.

Our goal is to lift that restriction and allow Michigan universities to set their own policies regarding the sale of alcohol at its sporting events. We have introduced bipartisan legislation to allow the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to issue liquor licenses for use at basketball, football and hockey stadiums.

This is a public health and safety issue. Across the county, many universities have started offering alcohol for purchase inside their stadiums over the last decade. Of the 14 schools in the Big Ten, eight allow alcohol sales at football games and most have seen positive results with decreases in the number of alcohol-related incidents.

After Ohio State started selling alcohol stadium-wide in 2016, university police reported a 65 percent drop in alcohol-related incidents inside the stadiums, while recording profits of $1.16 million in 2016 and $1.23 million in 2017.

In 2018, the NCAA lifted its ban on alcohol sales at championship events after a two-year pilot program where it was available at several events and the number of alcohol-related incidents dropped.

When fans can purchase alcohol inside the stadium, there’s less of an incentive to sneak it inside to consume illegally – a battle stadium security is constantly fighting. It also cuts down on the binge drinking at pregame tailgates that can lead to belligerent behavior or vomiting.

Our legislation would leave it up to the governing boards of our state universities. If the governing board approves, the Liquor Control Commission could issue up to three tavern licenses or three class c liquor licenses, which may be used for events within the public areas of these designated facilities. Sales would also be permitted two hours before and after each game.

With some common-sense safety measures — like requiring sales to be conducted by individuals who have successfully completed a safe server training program — there’s no reason for state government to continue preventing the sale of alcohol inside college stadiums.

It’s time to allow universities across our state to deliver a better, more modern experience for college sports fans in Michigan.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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