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Eric Peterson, Published January 14 2011

North Dakota bill introduced that would put an end to alcohol possession or sales in presence of minors at college sporting events

Alcohol would be prohibited inside and outside North Dakota college sporting events if a House bill introduced Thursday passes the Legislature.

The bill aims to prohibit alcohol possession or sales in the presence of minors.

Pat Seaworth, attorney for the state Board of Higher Education, said his understanding of the bill is that it would affect the Ralph Engelstad Arena and campuses that allow tailgating in a parking lot or other areas adjacent to athletic facilities.

Members of the State Board of Higher Education chose to not take a position on the bill during a Thursday meeting.

Rep. Chuck Damschen, R-Hampden, is the primary bill sponsor. Damschen said the reason for the bill is to help curb underage drinking. Hampden is located roughly 40 miles north of Devils Lake.

Damschen said past testimony on addiction and alcohol use showed that young people observing adults consuming alcohol is “one of the biggest” contributing factors to underage drinking.

“If we want to solve this problem and address the problem, it’s going to take some sacrifice on the part of people who claim to be responsible adults,” Damschen said.

Rep. Larry Bellew, R-Minot, and Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, also sponsored the bill. Lehr is located roughly 75 miles southwest of Jamestown.

“We have a pretty serious problem with underage drinking in North Dakota,” Damschen said. “If nothing else getting the discussion going on what really needs to be done, and how responsible adults are for the problem, and if they are really willing to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, on reaching a solution.”

Alcohol is allowed at tailgating for North Dakota State football games. NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said alcohol use is closely monitored.

“We really came up with what I think is a very good plan to manage it and moderate it and make sure that it’s done in the right way,” Taylor said.

Alcohol is allowed only in specific areas and during a certain time frame and spots need to be reserved, Taylor said. In addition, minors have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. No kegs are allowed, alcohol has to be poured into cups and there is a police presence.

Taylor added there are also tailgating areas that do not allow alcohol. Taylor said he hasn’t had a chance to talk to anybody about the specifics of the proposed legislation yet.

“Let’s kind of see what kind of plays out before we overreact or act at this point,” Taylor said. “I’m just kind of waiting to see what happens with it. I think it is so early in the process.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com