Daily Egyptian

New for 2017 season: Alcohol sales during SIU football home games

Football+fans+fill+the+stands+during+the+Salukis%27+50-17+win+over+the+Murray+State+Racers+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+17%2C+2016%2C+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Ryan+Michalesko+%7C+%40photosbylesko%29
Football fans fill the stands during the Salukis' 50-17 win over the Murray State Racers on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Football fans fill the stands during the Salukis' 50-17 win over the Murray State Racers on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Ryan Michalesko

Ryan Michalesko

Football fans fill the stands during the Salukis' 50-17 win over the Murray State Racers on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Dillon Gilliland and Nathan Dodd

SIU begins its sale of alcohol at sporting events Saturday with the Saluki football team’s home-opener.

During the summer of 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner approved a measure allowing Illinois colleges and universities to sell alcohol at campus events.

On Dec. 8, the SIU board of trustees gave its approval of alcohol sales on SIU campuses.

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During football games, fans will have three individual locations where they are able to purchase alcohol.

Patrons of Saluki Stadium will be able to purchase beer in Section 6, which resides in the middle of the west concourse. Fans can also find vendors at the main entrance next to the team store as well as on the concourse adjacent to the 50-yard line.

Coordinator of food services Heather Miranti confirmed that Miller Lite and Coors Light will be among the brands served from 16 oz. cans at a cost of six dollars each. Additional alcoholic beverage selections will be available in the club areas of the stadium.

Miranti explained that the open-grass area adjacent to the north end zone will remain a “family-friendly” zone where no alcohol will be permitted. She also said students of legal drinking age are permitted to purchase alcohol and bring it into the student seating section of the stadium.

Long-time university sponsor MillerCoors — the second-largest brewer in the U.S. — will serve as primary distributor of alcohol at all campus events. The company also advised on mandatory training programs SIU staff members handling and serving alcohol had to complete to be current with local regulations and standards.

According to deputy athletic director Mark Scally, vendors will not be allowed to sell to any customer that shows signs of intoxication. All alcohol sales will be discontinued at the completion of the third quarter.

The SIU athletic department is taking other precautions as well to ensure maximum safety for fans while enjoying an exciting environment.

“We’re going to thoroughly check IDs on everyone that comes up,” Scally said.

SIU campus police are tasked with security during home football games at Saluki Stadium. If any issues arise as the season progresses, policies and procedures are subject to change and extra security may be brought in.

“Our fans are disciplined,” Scally said. “We’ll be ready if there are any issues.”

Before the 2017 season, the only alcohol available at SIU athletic events came from pre-game tailgates or from exclusive clubs and suites in the facilities.

This season, spectators in the clubs will be able to take their alcoholic beverage with them and move down to their club-level seats to view the game.

“We want fewer rules and more fun,” SIU athletic director Tommy Bell said. “We’re trying to be accommodating but stay mindful at the same time.”

The athletic department explained that the decision to implement alcohol sales at games was not made in hopes of driving up attendance numbers, but rather to enhance the current fan experience during sporting events.

“I don’t think that alcohol is going to drive people to come to the game,” Bell said. “A winning team will drive more fans to the games.”

Even so, a result of the distribution to fans SIU expects to turn a reasonable profit from alcohol sales.

“If we start small and get a little lucky, we may get $50,000 or $100,000 in revenue,” Bell said. “I think that’s a real positive for the university and the athletic department.”

The sale of alcohol may not be limited exclusively to football games this season, as the implementation of alcohol sales during home basketball games in SIU Arena is also being explored.

“We’re looking towards basketball but I want to see what happens with football first,” Scally said. “First we have to execute this plan, then we will visit with the campus administration before basketball season.”

One of the main concerns with selling alcohol at basketball games is the lack of cup holders in the bleachers at SIU Arena. The athletic department explained there is currently no clear and efficient way to provide cup holders to seating areas, which creates an increased risk of spillage.

Spilt beer in the bleachers can pose potential safety hazards if not addressed in a timely manner. Also, without proper housekeeping measures in place at the start of the season, excessive spills can lead to a lingering smell in the arena.

“We don’t want it to smell like a brewery,” Bell said.

While alcohol sales are being discussed for the upcoming basketball season, expansion to sporting events outside of Saluki Stadium and SIU Arena are also being considered. Bell expressed that any event that is in a confined space — be it through temporary or permanent means — can potentially be a venue for the sale of alcohol.

“We will have to have a controlled, refined area we can keep it in,” Bell said. “We will look at [Itchy Jones Stadium, home of Saluki baseball] because it is a confined area.”

Other campus events such as concerts and fundraisers are also a part of the conversation in respect to having alcohol available for purchase by attendees.

With alcohol now being sold at select SIU sporting events, Scally notes there is potential for early success; but he notes the university must also be mindful to maintain room for improvement to current policies and procedures.

 “All this is a learning experience as we go forward … these are just baby steps,” Scally said. “We have never sold a single drink to the general public at a Saluki football game before. It’s gonna be real interesting to see how things develop.”

Saluki fans’ first taste of the new alcohol policies will be during SIU football’s home-opener on Saturday at Saluki Stadium, as Southern takes on non-conference opponent Mississippi Valley State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Sports reporter Dillon Gilliland can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DillonGilliland.

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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