Beer o’clock may beckon at Michigan college sports stadiums under new bill
- MSU, UM are two of three Big Ten Conference members who don’t sell booze at college sports events
- Bill would allow alcohol sale to begin an hour before the game and end 30 minutes afterward
- Beer sales could boost university revenue
LANSING — Michigan State and University of Michigan fans may soon be able to grab a cold one inside sports stadiums if a bipartisan bill heading to the state Senate is signed into law.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, would allow public universities to sell liquor for college sports events, beginning an hour before a game starts until 30 minutes after it ends.
Currently, Michigan prohibits alcohol sale at college stadiums, and Michigan universities can only apply for liquor licenses when professional sports events take place on campus.
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Having a drink is “part of the fan experience,” McCann told reporters Tuesday.
“This is something that universities have asked for and that they say that their fans want,” he said.
Eleven of the 14 universities in the Big Ten Conference allow some kind of alcohol sales at college sports events, Marlon Lynch, chief safety officer at Michigan State University, told Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee members during a Tuesday hearing.
“The three that do not are MSU, the school down the road (the University of Michigan) and (University of) Nebraska,” Lynch said.
The bill would address an “equity issue,” McCann said, arguing alcohol is available to suite VIPs but not to fans.
Additionally, the bill could mean more money for the universities, since the alcohol sale revenue would benefit both the institutions and alcohol vendors, McCann told reporters.
Lynch ensured lawmakers Tuesday the bill would not encourage underage drinking inside the stadiums. Roughly 65 percent of game goers at MSU are 21 or older, he said.
“There were some concern regarding potential underage consumption,” Lynch said. “The regulatory and compliance initiatives will still be followed within our venues, with the sales requiring proof of ID.”
The bill would also work to reduce binge drinking, something other universities that allow alcohol sale at games have already seen, McCann said. The University of West Virginia reported a 30 percent decrease in alcohol-related offenses since it started selling beers at games, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2017.
“It actually improves the safety because you don't have people preloading before the game, downing a whole bunch of beers … because they know they're not going to have them available in the venues,” McCann said.
But a ban on alcohol at college sports events is among a set of remedies recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to address binge drinking among college students, the Inquirer reported.
“The logic that allowing alcohol sales inside stadiums will decrease game-day drinking is dubious at best," Aaron White, the NIAAA's senior scientific adviser, told The Inquirer.
Jonathan Oosting contributed reporting.
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