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U of M plans to sell alcohol at basketball, men's hockey games

The University of Minnesota flag flies in front of the student section after a Gopher touchdown against the Indiana State Sycamores in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, Sept 10, 2016. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

The University of Minnesota is preparing to sell alcohol to all basketball and men’s hockey fans of legal age, not just those in premium seats.

The Board of Regents spoke favorably Friday, May 10, of a plan to expand beer and wine sales during games at Williams Arena and 3M Arena at Mariucci. They’ll vote at a future meeting.

The athletic department estimates the change will create another $250,000 in alcohol revenue each year. They expect a bump in ticket sales, too.

“When I do events across the state, we hear feedback from fans that they feel like this would enhance the fan experience,” Athletics Director Mark Coyle said.

An estimated $70,000 is needed to prepare the two facilities for expanded alcohol sales.

Under the proposal, beer and wine sales would be cut off at the start of the second half of basketball games and the third period for hockey.

Regent Darrin Rosha suggested a longer sales window for basketball, citing long customer lines at halftime.

After a battle with the Legislature, the university began selling alcohol during games in 2012. Football fans throughout TCF Bank Stadium could buy it, but sales were limited to suites and club areas at the hockey and basketball arenas.

Regent Richard Beeson said it’s worked well at football games. He suggested expanding alcohol sales further, to Gopher baseball and softball games; Regent Michael Hsu added women’s hockey to that list.

Doing so, however, would require a change in state law because the U’s five campuses will have reached their statutory limit of nine venues selling alcohol.

Hsu said alcohol sales in the arenas may actually cut down on problem behavior among fans. That’s because the prohibition, he said, causes some to drink heavily before they enter the buildings.

Hsu added that alcohol sales will help the university compete for fans in a competitive sports market.

Besides basketball and men’s hockey, the expansion would allow for alcohol sales inside a new club seating area at Maturi Pavilion, which is part of Williams Arena and hosts wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics.