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Cali Owings, Published November 02 2013

Push for alcohol sales at Bison games fizzles

FARGO – While North Dakota State University football fans can consume alcoholic beverages in three designated tailgating lots, at home or at restaurants and bars before kickoff, the taps are dry in the Fargodome during Bison games.

Last week, a few NDSU student senators floated the possibility of regulating alcohol sales at games.

In a student newspaper story about the push, they argued alcohol sales in the Fargodome could reduce binge-drinking before games and other issues regarding students and alcohol.

But less than a week later, it seems the idea lacks support from the university, and even the students who brought up the issue are reconsidering its merit. “Right now we haven’t come across information that supports our argument enough to cause change,” Aaron Yaggie, one of the student senators looking into the idea, wrote in an email.

But students aren’t the first fans to think about throwing a few back inside the Fargodome.

With the popularity of NDSU football and growth in tailgating, Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel, the department’s spokesman, said the potential for alcohol sales in the Fargodome has long been discussed among the masses.

“As people have had experience at other places, they’ve brought that idea back,” he said.

If the sale of alcohol during Bison games was a possibility, Vettel said the Fargo Police Department would make its voice heard in discussions with the school and the Fargodome as it did when they developed tailgating procedures a decade ago.

“At some point, there is going to be very formal discussions about that transition if it’s something we are going to look at doing,” he said.

Game day issues

The current five-year contract between the school and the Fargodome Authority does not allow for alcohol sales inside the venue during school events.

Athletic Director Gene Taylor said the alcohol policy for NDSU events in the Fargodome “is not going to change any time soon.”

Robbie Lauf, student body president, said the student government supports the alcohol policies as they are.

Keeping the tailgating lots where alcohol can be consumed separate from the “family-friendly environment” inside the venue works well, Lauf said.

While the student government doesn’t want to change alcohol policy at the dome, Lauf said students’ binge drinking, sneaking alcohol into the venue and underage consumption are issues on game day.

So far, over this season’s four home games, Fargo police have issued 43 citations for minor consumption – 15 of those were issued inside the Fargodome, Vettel said.

Limits help

Jody Hodgson, general manager for the Ralph Engelstad Arena where University of North Dakota men’s hockey games are held, said alcohol-related incidents are “few and far between” there, though the arena sells beer and wine in public areas during games.

Hard alcohol is only served in the arena’s club rooms and suites.

Precautions like a two-beer limit per transaction and a ban on any alcoholic beverages in the student sections help ensure safe alcohol service, he said. Allowing the sale of alcohol also encourages responsible consumption in a social environment, he said.

“The presence of alcohol at the events, in many ways, reduces some of the binge drinking problems that are happening on other campuses,” he said.

Vettel said it was important to keep an open dialogue to ensure a safe, positive fan experience for the 20,000 people who descend on the Fargodome for game days.

“We understand alcohol is a part of that,” he said “But it shouldn’t be driving that train.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599