PSU may sell alcohol to (a few) fans
By Susan Snyder
May 6, 2016
A committee of Pennsylvania State University trustees on Thursday recommended that some fans be allowed to buy alcoholic beverages at Beaver Stadium, the Bryce Jordan Center, and other athletic facilities on the main campus. The proposal is expected to win full board approval Friday.
Sales would occur only in private and controlled areas – including suites, club seats, and reception areas. That means in-stadium access to alcohol for about 4,400 of the 107,000 fans who typically cram Beaver Stadium for a football game, said Sandy Barbour, university athletic director.
The university also would need to secure a liquor license, which president Eric Barron said could happen in time for fall football.
The policy also would apply to Penn State’s golf courses, Recreation Hall, Pegula Ice Arena, and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Penn State officials hope to tap new revenue with the move and attract events such as the NHL Winter Classic, while satisfying alumni and other fans in premium seating who expect alcohol among their beverage choices.
The new policy also would allow beer and wine to be sold to all patrons of legal age at non-collegiate sports events such as concerts and professional sporting matches held at Beaver Stadium and other facilities. The university last year tested alcohol sales at a Garth Brooks concert in the Bryce Jordan Center and most recently at a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Penn State will employ trained servers who will intervene in cases of people who attempt to consume too much, and there will be limits on the number of drinks per patron, officials said.
“We believe that, in a controlled environment where there are strict limits and restrictions built into the system, that those of legal age to drink will respond appropriately and responsibly,” said David Gray, senior vice president of finance and business.
Alcohol certainly wouldn’t be a new reality on football weekends; a stroll through the pregame tailgating makes that apparent. But both Barron and Barbour said they would not favor expanding sales to the general public at football games.
“Right now, I feel very, very comfortable that what I am proposing has little or no intersection with students,” Barbour said, “and does not contribute to what is generally across our country a recognized alcohol issue among students on campus.”
The university will divert some of the proceeds from alcohol sales to student affairs for alcohol awareness, Barron said.
If the policy is approved, Penn State would join a growing number of universities nationwide that sell alcohol at intercollegiate athletic competitions. A 2015 study said a quarter of Division I football schools allow alcohol to be sold in their stadiums.
Ten of the 13 other schools in the Big Ten Conference already sell alcohol in some capacity, Barbour said.
Other regional universities, including Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, do not sell alcohol at their sports events.
Beer is sold at Lincoln Financial Field, where Temple University plays its football games, and at the Liacouras Center during basketball games, said Raymond Betzner, university spokesman. Betzner noted that Spectra by Comcast Spectacor operates the Liacouras Center.
At one time, Penn State was opposed to alcohol sales at games. But university officials said Thursday that they had found sales of alcohol at the concerts actually resulted in fewer alcohol-related problems.
“We don’t have binge drinking before the event. That’s what’s going on,” Barron said.