(I've updated this post once below after Appalachian State University became the seventh school to allow alcohol sales at games.)
Now that a new state law allows alcohol sales at athletic venues at North Carolina's public universities, some UNC System schools are slowly getting around to adjusting to this new reality.
N.C. A&T and UNC-Wilmington on Friday became the fifth and sixth public universities in North Carolina to permit alcohol sales in and around their football stadiums, basketball arenas and other on-campus sports facilities. (Here's my story on A&T's new policy; the Star-News covers the UNCW change.) By "around," the new law allows alcohol sales in any area within 500 feet of an athletics facility.
Only one school so far — East Carolina University — has come right out and said how alcohol sales will work. A few schools have approved new policies but are still working on details. And most everyone else is kicking the proverbial tires.
Here's where everyone stands at this point:
East Carolina approved its new policy July 12 and immediately laid out some of the ground rules. I'll bullet-point them here because I suspect most schools will set up similar guidelines:
• ECU's new policy extends alcohol sales to all campus sports venues, but the university said it's planning to sell beer and wine during games in just three venues: the football stadium, the basketball arena (for both men's and women's basketball) and the baseball stadium.
• At football games, alcohol sales will stop at the end of the third quarter.
• Beer and wine will be sold in cans and boxes, respectively, and each customer can buy just one drink at a time.
• Patrons of legal age will get wristbands.
• Sales to minors and intoxicated people aren't allowed.
• ECU will add more security people and video cameras to their sports venues.
“We think it will enhance our game day experience for those who choose to participate,” Jon Gilbert, ECU's athletic director, told trustees earlier this month. “We also think it will increase revenue.”
ECU estimates that a football game that attracts 40,000 people will generate about $157,000 in alcohol sales.
UNC-Chapel Hill (in April, pending the change in state law) and N.C. State University (July 10) both amended their university policies to allow alcohol sales at their athletics venues. But both schools are working out the details, and both are TBA at this point as to where and when it might sell alcohol.
UNC-CH athletic department spokesman Steve Kirschner told me by email that the university's "concessions partner and games operations staff will be making a presentation to (athletic director Bubba Cunningham) that would include how we would proceed with alcohol sales if we choose to go that route. Once they make that presentation, Bubba will meet with campus leaders to determine if we will choose to sell this season."
An N.C. State spokesman told the N&O that "sales could begin as early as the football home opener on August 31."
UNC-Charlotte will sell alcohol at its football, baseball, basketball and soccer venues starting this fall. UNCC's approach is a little differently than the ECU plan. For one, there will be only four beer stands at the UNCC football stadium (versus 48 at ECU's larger facility). For another, UNCC is putting alcohol sales on a short leash: UNCC trustees approved only a one-year pilot program. As university officials put it in a presentation to the board: "Fan behavior and alcohol-related incidents would be closely monitored during the pilot year to ensure that the overall fan experience is not diminished due to excessive drinking."
(An aside: In that same presentation, UNCC did a post-mortem on Norm's Tavern, the beer garden it had outside of its football and baseball stadiums. On one hand, UNCC said that providing beer was a way to get people to come to games instead of staying home and watching on TV. On the other, the beer garden lacked seats and restrooms, and fans couldn't see the entire field from there. Beer gardens were a problem for families — minor children couldn't come in — and tended to create a lot of empty seats because folks would hang out and drink at Norm's instead of going into the stadium.)
N.C. A&T and UNCW on Friday both approved expanded alcohol sales. A&T is aiming to sell alcohol at home football games starting next month, but doubts it will make beer and wine available at other venues. The Star-News of Wilmington reported that UNCW's chancellor "hope(s) to start alcohol sales this year, most likely during basketball season." (UNCW doesn't have a football team.)
There are a couple of "nos" so far. One is UNC-Pembroke, which won't allow alcohol sales at any of its athletic venues. The other is UNCG, but its "no" comes with an asterisk. UNCG isn't planning to sell alcohol at any of its on-campus sports venues. However, beer is sold at its men's basketball games played at the Greensboro Coliseum, and that won't change. The previous state law that banned alcohol at college sports venues didn't apply to the city-owned Coliseum, which chose to sell beer.
Most everyone else is in wait-and-see mode. Winston-Salem State, for instance, is "exploring its options." At Elizabeth City State, a spokeswoman said expanding alcohol sales are "not a high priority for the chancellor."
At Western Carolina University, meanwhile, trustees will consider expanded alcohol sales at their September meeting. On July 8, trustees approved a measure that allows beer and wine service starting this fall in Catamount Corner, a new premium seating area at the south end of the football stadium that's open only to boosters. (Sound familiar?) A university spokesman said this decision wasn't related to the new law and just happened to coincide.
Update, 12:45 p.m. Thursday: We're now up to seven schools. App State trustees on Thursday approved a measure to allow alcohol sales at its football stadium, basketball arena and other campus sports venues. Here's formal word from App State on the new measure, but there's no indication as to when alcohol sales will begin and at what venues. App State, like its counterparts in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, still has a lot of ducks to put in rows.
Update, 1:15 p.m. Thursday: App State's athletic director tells the Watauga Democrat newspaper that the school plans to sell beer at its home football opener on Aug. 31.