Penn State

Sandy Barbour talks plans for alcohol availability

Under a proposal, alcohol could be available in select areas of Beaver Stadium.
Under a proposal, alcohol could be available in select areas of Beaver Stadium. Centre Daily Times, file

If you want a nice cold beer while you watch a game in Beaver Stadium, some opportunities may be opening up to you.

Just don’t expect it in the student section.

At the Penn State trustees legal and compliance committee meeting on Thursday, athletic director Sandy Barbour laid out plans for alcohol availability at Intercollegiate Athletics events or on ICA properties.

Yes, Beaver Stadium is on the list, but unless you have really good seats, you will probably have to stick to tailgating outside for your adult beverages.

According to Barbour’s presentation, during Nittany Lions home games, alcohol could be served in the Mount Nittany Club or stocked in private suites.

Similar rules would follow for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and on the Penn State golf courses. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park already allows alcohol for State College Spikes games, but would allow pre-ordered alcohol for private suites for Penn State games.

The Bryce Jordan Center, which is operated by Auxiliary and Business Services, separate from ICA, began allowing alcohol at select non-university events in 2015. Under the proposal, that would be extended to Nittany Lions and Lady Lions basketball, too, but again, only for clubs and private areas.

The policy opens up all of its sports properties for non-ICA events, outside the regular school year, which could serve alcohol the way the Jordan Center and Medlar Field do.

That’s something Barbour said could mean millions in revenue.

Take the NHL Winter Classic. The annual New Year’s Day hockey game is a big draw for football stadiums like Heinz Field and Fenway Park.

Barbour said Penn State had been in negotiations for a turn at the popular event, but two things got in the way: the cost of winterizing the stadium and the prohibition on alcohol sales.

“We didn’t get very far down the road with it,” she told the committee, but said if they had secured the event, possibly for a cross-commonwealth clash between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, it could have meant between $1 million and $2 million for Penn State in total receipts.

But both Barbour and President Eric Barron say they are adamant that the proposal will have little to no impact on the student body’s ability to drink.

While most of those 18- to 20-somethings watch the game from the student section and drink in the parking lots, Barbour said few would have access to those areas that will allow liquor should the new policy pass.

Penn State told the Centre Daily Times in January that one of those luxury boxes costs $523,040 for a 10-year lease, plus another $7,000 or so a year for the tickets. Not exactly in the average student budget.

But the university has floated test balloons for programs before. In 2015, the Jordan Center liquor license was done as a test, but the university specifically said that it was not a prelude to liquor sales at Beaver Stadium.

So what will keep the 4,400 or so limited Beaver Stadium seats from becoming all of the seats?

“If we have a new athletic director, I suppose that is a possibility,” said Barbour. “I’m very confident what we are proposing will have little or no intersection with the students.”

Except maybe in terms of money.

Barron said that Student Affairs, ICA and ABS would share the money generated by alcohol sales. Student Affairs received $40,000 from liquor sales at last month’s Luke Bryan and Bruce Springsteen concerts.

Alcohol consumption often involves peer pressure, and Penn State is no different. Ten other Big Ten universities allow alcohol at their venues in some way.

“It is common practice among Penn State’s peers to allow for the sale of alcohol for attracting headlining performing acts and major, professional sporting events to athletic venues. In fact, our venues have been at a disadvantage in gaining the sign-on of such attractions, and it is possible to have alcohol served in a safe and responsible manner,” David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business, said.

The timing is also right as ICA looks at possible renovations to Beaver Stadium and other facilities. Incorporating alcohol service opportunities could change the way some designs are done, Barbour said.

The issue will come to the full board for a vote on Friday.

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