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WVU to sell beer at football games

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By Tony Dobies
Saturday, June 4, 2011
 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bring in the beer: West Virginia will be selling alcohol at Milan Puskar Stadium this fall.

By a 9-5 vote on Friday, the school's Board of Governors approved changes to its alcohol policy that will allow beer to be served at sporting events.

"We can now follow the path of many of our Big East colleagues and control the sale of beer in our stadium," athletic director Oliver Luck said. "We have much planning to do with our public safety officials and security staff, but we will be ready to implement our plan for the 2011 football season."

The athletic department will be responsible for studying and tracking the results of the policy change during the upcoming season and was instructed to provide a report to the Board of Governors in a year's time.

"We didn't think that it should have been passed without some kind of feedback the next year to say, 'Is it working?' " said Board of Governors chairwoman Carolyn Long, who didn't have a vote but said she would've approved the policy change. Long was counted in the official vote, making it 10-5.

Stadium concessionaire Sodexo will be in charge of sales, and the athletic department is expected to make between $500,000 and $1.2 million per season. The school expects to boost the amount of money it makes per fan on a game day by more than $8, according to Luck's presentation to the board. Beer is likely to cost more than $6, Luck said earlier this year.

The board went against the majority public opinion that was sent in: More than 70 percent opposed beer sales.

"I know some people will be upset, and I'm sorry if they are," Long said. "That being said, we have to look at the full picture."

Beer sales will stop in the middle of the third quarter, fans will be allowed to purchase just two at a time and they must present identification. Beer will be sold in plastic bottles with the top already pulled off.

There will be no mobile beer stands or hawkers in the stands; it only will be sold in concourse areas. No beer will be sold in student section areas, and all concession sellers will be instructed to make sure alcohol is being sold responsibly, Luck said.

The athletic department already has increased its budget on security for football games, Luck said, to help catch fans who bring alcohol into the stadium.

"Anyone that thinks alcohol is not being brought into Mountaineer Field is either naïve or blind," Board of Governors secretary Thomas Flaherty said before the vote. "It's there, and this is a good step toward controlling it."

In addition to Luck, University Police Chief Bob Roberts, former Morgantown Police Chief Phil Scott and current Morgantown Chief Ed Preston spoke in favor of the policy.

"Time will tell whether this was the right move or not," Roberts said. "But if anything, this is a step in the right direction to try to help educate and control some of the behavioral issues we have had."

Board members James Dailey, Chris Lewallen, Diane Lewis, Edward Robinson and William Wilmoth voted against the policy. Lewallen is the student representative on the board. Raymond Lane and Charles Vest were not in attendance.

"At first glance, students think they want beer sold in the stadium, but a further look into it, and I don't think they'll be happy with the way it's set up," Lewallen said. "We do have fan behavior problems, and changing a variable right now might be dangerous."

Previously, alcoholic beverages were sold only in suites. With the addition of West Virginia this fall, seven of the eight Big East football schools will sell alcohol in their stadiums; Rutgers is the lone exception.

The vote allows the sale of alcohol at all sporting events, but Luck said earlier this year that there are no plans to sell for anything but football. The school also will end its halftime ticket pass-out policy and ban smoking from the stadium.

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