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UTA to sell beer during College Park sporting events

08/23/2012 11:42 PM

08/24/2012 10:21 AM

ARLINGTON -- When the University of Texas at Arlington volleyball team takes the court today at the new College Park Center, fans will be able to sip a beer while watching the Mavericks perform spikes against Savannah State

UTA is joining universities and colleges nationwide in selling alcohol at sporting events to bring in bigger crowds -- and boost the game day experience -- by allowing their fans to buy a cold one.

College Park, the $78 million arena, also is trying to position itself in a highly competitive sports/entertainment market that includes the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks and several Division 1 programs.

"We want people to come to our games," said Gregg Elkin, UTA's senior associate athletic director for external relations. "Beer sales at sporting events are a pretty common thing."

Beer sales have created a buzz among students, student body President Jennifer Fox said. Many students seem more excited about a tailgating policy that took effect Thursday, she. Tailgating is now allowed on a university lot on south of Mitchell Street on weekends.

Fox, who doesn't drink alcohol, said she won't buy beer or tailgate.

Still, she said she understands why it is important for many in the UTA community.

"I do understand the game day experience and hope that both of these new policies will encourage more attendance and school spirit at games," she said.

Controlled situation

Elkin said UTA is in compliance with state laws and National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. Additionally, police are always present at sporting events.

"It's a controlled situation," he said, adding that the idea is for fans to enjoy beer in a "safe and responsible manner."

Beer sales are a new practice during UTA athletic events, but today won't be the first time beer was sold at College Park Center. Beer was offered to people of legal age at concession stands during last spring's Drake concert, UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said.

UTA receives a commission based on sales as part of its contract with Aramark, the food service company operating that staffs concessions and holds the dining service contract.

Domestic brand beers will sell for $6 a cup and premium labels for $7. UTA's proceeds go toward College Park Center's operating costs, Sullivan said.

During athletic events, Aramark will:

Sell beer from all open concession stands.

Ask for identification from anyone who looks 40 years or younger.

Sell no more than two beers per customer at a time.

Stop selling beer midway through volleyball games and at the beginning of the second half of basketball games.

Aramark doesn't operate concessions at UTA's softball and baseball complex, so that facility doesn't fall under the policies regarding beer sales, according to UTA.

"We haven't announced a decision about the spring baseball and softball season," Sullivan said.

Campus by campus

Elkin said that when UTA officials began exploring the issue it discovered a surprising number of universities already selling alcohol or planning to sell it.

Some universities were contracting space from venues that already sold alcohol, he said. The University of Minnesota regents, for example, voted this summer to allow beer sales at home games, according to news reports.

The Big 12 Conference has a policy against alcohol sales at championship events, but during the regular season each institution can decide whether it will sell alcohol, said Bob Burda, associate commissioner for communications for the Big 12.

In the UT System, alcohol sales at sporting events vary by campus, spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said.

Alcohol is not sold at concession stands at Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas. But alcohol sales do take place in some other areas. At UNT, beer and liquor are sold in private donor areas, club and suite levels for football games and the hospitality room for basketball games, said Eric Capper, senior associate athletics director there.

Similarly, at TCU and SMU alcohol is only sold in suites and clubs in the football stadium.

At Baylor University, where alcohol is not sold on campus or at sporting events, tailgating is getting more common. Alcohol is not allowed at tailgating either.

Entertainment value

Fox hopes that her classmates don't get too carried away on game days.

"My primary hope is that students and other UTA community members are safe and do not abuse either policy," she said.

Fox's concerns echo a theme that has emerged nationally as more universities decide to offer beer sales during sporting events -- a controversial move by those who believe strict lines should be drawn at events that draw underage crowds.

Fox said many colleges allow some form of tailgating on game days, and are allowing beer sales during games. Beer sales took place during last season's University of Texas at San Antonio football games, which were in the Alamodome.

Elkin said: "We didn't just do this haphazardly. At the end of the day, it's getting value for your entertainment dollar."

Social Media Editor Nick Dean contributed to this report.

Diane Smith,

(817) 390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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