Beer in Spartan Stadium hasn’t increased police problems so far
- Alcohol sales in Michigan college sports stadiums is now allowed
- Excess drinking on college game days has been a long-standing health issue
- Spartan Stadium began sales in mid September, with no notable difference in police incidents
EAST LANSING — It was the second quarter of the big Michigan-Michigan State football game at Spartan Stadium. Fans filled the stands on a chilly fall night, cheering or moaning depending on whether they were wearing green and white or maize and blue, while, in the concourse, Phil Patterson waited impatiently for a can of beer.
“I’ve stood in that line for 30 minutes and haven’t had a beer,” complained the 54-year-old Ionia resident, standing in a long line while a nearby snack stand without alcohol sales was nearly vacant. “Why don't they have more stands?”
Alcohol sales at college stadiums is still a work in progress in Michigan. The University of Michigan hasn’t begun alcohol sales at football games yet, and MSU has had sales for just three home games. And while there were concerns about the impact in-stadium beer sales could have on a sports crowd not known for its sobriety, there’s little indication of negative impact so far.
- Michigan State approves alcohol sales at Spartan Stadium this fall
- Raise a glass, Michigan. Cocktails-to-go, college stadium beer sales now legal
- Financial info of students, alumni compromised by August data breach, U-M says
Game day drinking has been a long-standing health issue on college campuses, and there has been debate over whether sales inside stadiums would fuel the problem or tamp down a tradition of heavy pre-game drinking. But since MSU began selling alcohol at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 16, alcohol related incidents inside the stadium have been similar to pre-beer games.
For the first two home games of the season before alcohol was sold at the stadium, there were 11 alcohol related incidents at the first game and 13 incidents during the second game, said Dana Whyte, Spokesperson for the Department of Police and Public Safety at MSU.
There were 11 alcohol-related incidents during the Sept.16 game against the University of Washington and 10 during the Sept. 23 game against the University of Maryland.
“The numbers have stayed pretty much the same when it comes to incidents and we think it's because people are already usually drinking beforehand, if they're tailgating,“ Whyte said. “So, when they come to the stadium, they may have already had something to drink and don't necessarily need to drink at the stadium or they're able to space it out a little bit more rather than just drinking all before the game and then going to the game and not being able to purchase anymore.”
Alcohol-infused incidents jumped for the big in-state rivalry game Saturday, with 26 incidents inside of Spartan Stadium and 15 on campus. It’s not unusual for there to be more alcohol issues on the day of the annual MSU-Michigan football game, whether the game is played in East Lansing or Ann Arbor.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill in July allowing Michigan universities to sell canned alcohol at football, basketball and hockey games. Supporters of the legislation argued that selling alcohol during college sports events would decrease the number of alcohol-related incidents, while others worried that it would encourage people to drink more.
“Patrons, we hope, would be less inclined to load up prior to the game knowing that they will have the option to obtain an alcoholic beverage upon entering the facility and through the duration of the game,” said Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo during a Senate committee hearing in June.
Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, questioned the necessity of selling alcohol at stadiums, noting that lawmakers shouldn’t encourage fans to get drunk during sports games.
The Michigan State Police often works with the East Lansing, Lansing and Meridian Township Police Departments during game days when a large crowd is expected to show up.
“That was obviously one of the big questions when they decided to allow alcohol in the stadium was, is there going to be an increase in disorderly conduct or certain crimes, but we have not seen an increase,” said Chad Pride, captain of the East Lansing Police Department.
“We know when Michigan and Michigan State are playing here that we're going to have to have all hands on deck and … make sure that our community is safe and that the people that are visiting here are safe,” he said.
Data from alcohol sales at college stadiums in Ohio offer hope that in-stadium sales won’t increase alcohol-related problems. A study conducted at Ohio State University showed that in 2021, about 29 percent of calls to the EMS on game days were alcohol related, down from 36 percent of EMS calls being alcohol related in 2019, before it was sold at the stadium.
“I think it's actually going to be a better experience just like how NFL games and other colleges experience,” said Kyle Dalal, 26, Brighton, a Spartan fan waiting in line for a beer. “It's less trauma pregame and postgame. We just have that ability to relax throughout the day.”
There were 13 locations where alcohol was sold in Spartan Stadium Saturday, stocked with 38,000 cans of beer and seltzer.
When alcohol sales began at Spartan stadium, Gina Keilen, associate director of culinary services, noticed that beer concession stands were crowded which prompted staff to relocate some of them.
“We have been working, as we've gotten more people hired, to add points of sale to hopefully get people through the lines faster,” to prevent people from standing in long lines which may help with traffic management, Whyte added.”
Canned alcoholic beverages including Coors Light and Nutrl Seltzer were sold for $10 while craft beers like Bell’s Oberon Eclipse and Sparti Parti were $12. Fans are limited to two drinks at a time, until alcohol service ends, five minutes into the third quarter.
The university's liquor license requires that trained employees work the alcohol concessions. Since the university hires volunteers to work the concession stands where food is sold, alcoholic beverages are sold at a separate stand.
“I think it keeps people in the stadium a little bit longer but also maybe hopefully they would drink less coming into it and then they'd be more well mannered,” said Molly Dala, 26, of Brighton.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents recently approved asking the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to issue liquor licenses at Crisler Center, Michigan Stadium and Yost Ice Arena. Alcohol sales at U-M intercollegiate sporting and a small number of non-athletic events could start as early as Jan. 1.
Central Michigan University also permits alcohol sales at football games and basketball games.
See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:
- “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
- “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
- “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.
If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!