Discussion to allow beer sales at Williams-Brice continues

jkendall@thestate.comMay 21, 2014 

— If beer sales are coming to an SEC stadium near you, South Carolina will not be leading the charge to bring them.

“I am not a proponent of it necessarily personally,” Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner told The State. “I guess you never say never.”

In fact, some people, most notably LSU athletics director Joe Aleva, believe the Southeastern Conference’s current policy banning alcohol sales in “public areas” of the league’s stadiums eventually will be changed, allowing fans to buy beer in Tiger Stadium or Williams-Brice Stadium or Sanford Stadium.

Tanner and USC president Harris Pastides have discussed the issue recently, Tanner said.

“Nothing specific, just conversations because it has been in the news a little bit,” Tanner said. “I think there would be a lot of issues, a lot of concerns. I’m not saying we won’t eventually get to that point, but I am not excited about it at this point in time.”

The issue likely will be discussed at next week’s annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., but no changes are expected to be imminent. That hasn’t stopped the subject from being a talking point this spring, though.

The University of Texas served beer at men’s and women’s basketball late in the season and at baseball and softball games as a trial. Athletics director Steve Patterson told The Dallas Morning News the result was “positive,” but he stopped short of saying beer sales were coming to the Longhorns’ football games.

“We had great feedback from the patrons. They appreciate it,” he said. “We had increased revenues. They were satisfactory. We had no additional incidents than we've had in the past. From a customer service standpoint, from a safety and security standpoint, from a revenue standpoint, it's been positive so far.”

So far, Tanner hasn’t heard any support for a change among Gamecock fans, he said.

“I haven’t had one email, I haven’t gotten one phone call that says, ‘We need to do this,’” Tanner said. “I like it just the way it is.”

Like many SEC schools, South Carolina currently serves beer in its premium seating areas. Thus far, that hasn’t caused any major incidents in the stadium, Tanner said.

“I think there has been an occasion or two there might have been somebody who had too much to drink that was not allowed to drink past a certain level so there has been some monitoring and those types of things going on, but there haven’t been any issues,” he said. “For the most part everybody in those areas is of age. I won’t tell you that’s exclusive, but for the most part that is the case, and that would not be the case in the seating bowl.”

The SEC’s current policy states, “No alcoholic beverages shall be sold or dispensed for public consumption anywhere in the facility and the possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages in the public areas of the facility shall be prohibited. These prohibitions shall not apply to private, leased areas in the facility or other areas designated by the SEC. There shall be no advertising displays mentioning or promoting alcoholic beverages in the facility.”

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told AL.com in March that the conference might review that policy. If a change is based solely on increasing revenue, Tanner won’t be a proponent, he said.

“A lot of people talk about the amount of money you could generate by serving alcohol at the stadium. That would not be our driving force,” he said. “When you do have alcohol there is a lot more expense involved too as far as the management of it. We have not delved into it deep enough to understand the revenue side of it. I am not convinced that this is a windfall financially if we sell alcohol.”

If Tanner was ever convinced that alcohol sales in Williams-Brice would help curb incidents involving alcohol outside the stadium, he would reconsider his position, he said.

“I haven’t seen that as a proven statistic,” he said, “but you do see those conversations from time to time.”

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