When University of Michigan fans make their way into the Big House on Football Saturdays, the stadium is filled with laughs, cheers and lots of maize and blue. However, one thing is notably missing from this lively atmosphere: alcohol sales.
This past July, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law allowing sports venues at public universities in Michigan to sell alcohol at sporting events. The Board of Regents unanimously decided at their Oct. 19 meeting to apply for Class C liquor licenses for Yost Ice Arena, the Michigan Stadium and Crisler Center. In addition, the Board voted to first implement alcohol sales at Crisler Center and Yost Ice Arena before moving to Michigan Stadium, allowing time for community feedback before trying out this new policy at the biggest college football stadium in the country.
Earlier this month, the University conducted a survey among the U-M community to gauge opinions and concerns about the potential sale of alcohol at sporting events. As the University moves forward with the application process, The Michigan Daily spoke with campus community members about the potential impact of alcohol sales at U-M sports venues.
Engineering senior Jake Skulnik, president of Maize Rage, the official student section for U-M men’s and women’s basketball, told The Daily he thinks there are potential benefits from alcohol sales at U-M sporting events as long as the University implements some restrictions.
“Alcohol isn’t something that everyone is using at sporting events, but for people that would like to consume it, I think it is an added benefit as long as it’s sold legally and also making sure that everyone is not ordering past a certain time,” Skulnik said. “Obviously making sure the safety of everyone is maintained is the key priority in all this.”
Skulnik added that alcohol sales could help improve the energy levels of fans at sporting events, which he said could even enhance the performance of the team.
“I think it could really impact the environment,” Skulnik said. “People will sometimes be a little bit more energetic in the crowd when they do consume alcohol, which is obviously a benefit on the court when the team is going to need the fans to give them a push.”
However, Skulnik said this new policy would not have a huge impact on students at various U-M sports venues, since most of them are underage.
“Obviously, with the student section being primarily underage, it’s not going to affect the student section as much,” Skulnik said. “We are just hoping to make sure that we’re keeping the environment at (U-M sports venues) at a top-notch standard.”
In an email to The Daily, state Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, who introduced Senate Bill 427 to allow college sporting venues to obtain liquor licenses, noted that when The Ohio State University announced its stadium-wide beer sales for the 2016 football season, the University Police reported a 65% drop in alcohol-related incidents. McCann said he believes the sale of alcohol at college sporting events can reduce binge drinking and help patrons use alcohol more safely, as long as rules against underage drinking are strictly enforced.
“Data compiled by multiple universities indicates the availability of alcohol during intercollegiate athletic events will translate into less binge drinking conducted at pregame tailgates,” McCann wrote. “As with any (Michigan Liquor Control Commission) supervised vendor, strict compliance will ensure that only students and patrons over 21 will be able to access alcohol.”
McCann also said he hopes this new source of revenue for Michigan’s public universities will allow them to provide more support for their students.
“Each university can best assess the needs of their students and their own institution,” McCann wrote. “I trust that any new revenue will be used to improve the university experience for their students — with dollars going to whatever the university identifies as the most critical to students’ needs.”
Despite the potential positive influence of alcohol sales at Michigan sporting events, some members of the campus community have concerns regarding the issue. Matthew Statman, manager of the Collegiate Recovery Program, told The Daily that it is important for all students to have spaces on campus that are deliberately alcohol-free, especially for students in recovery.
“It’s important to have recovery-friendly spaces and spaces where fun can be had without alcohol,” Statman said. “Once you get in the stadium, there’s people that sneak stuff and there’s people that are intoxicated around you to some extent, but overall, the experience has been one that is … relatively safe.”
Statman encouraged students who choose to drink before or during sporting events to follow the evidence-based sets of practices set forth by the University to keep themselves and others safe. The Stay in the Blue campaign is a U-M initiative that provides students with strategies to keep their blood alcohol content below 0.06.
“The Stay in the Blue campaign helps students learn where is the mark that I’m shooting for if I do use alcohol where I’m going to maximize the likelihood of fun and minimize the likelihood of negative consequences or harm,” Statman said. “Most students in the stadium are probably not even old enough to drink and so making sure that we’re not selling to people under 21, that’s probably going to be helpful.”
Daily Staff Reporter Mary Corey can be reached at email@example.com.