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Arizona to start selling beer and wine at football games

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The intention is to begin sales for the regular-season opener against BYU on Sept. 1.

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will begin offering beer and wine at football games starting this fall, UA athletic director Dave Heeke told the media Thursday.

The intention is to begin sales for the regular-season opener against BYU on Sept. 1, Heeke said.

“These are big steps, but it is becoming much more common around the country certainly,” he said. “And I think we’re approaching half of the Pac-12 at least having it or at least considering it very seriously.”

The UA was granted an extension of premises for its existing license by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control on July 24, following inspections by three City of Tucson agencies, per a UA release.

The UA also has a permit to sell beer and wine at McKale Center.

“The UA will contract will a professional, licensed concessionaire experienced in selling and serving alcohol in a highly regulated and controlled environment. There will be a limited number of concession stands with alcohol sales, which will begin 90 minutes before kickoff and conclude before the end of the third quarter,” the UA release said.

“Beer and wine sales are the latest in a series of enhancements Arizona Athletics and the university have made to improve the fan experience, including expanding performances by the Pride of Arizona Marching Band, adding local food vendors and reducing ticket prices for certain sections. Other efforts involve introducing new seating in the ZonaZoo student sections on the stadium’s east side, and several new restroom and concession areas on the lower south side”

Heeke said alcohol sales will be confined to the stadium’s footprint, meaning they won’t extend to tailgates or other areas of campus.

“We’re inside and around the stadium perimeter so we wouldn’t be expanding,” he said. “This isn’t going to be like Major League Baseball and football. We’re not going to hop in the aisles.”

Ohio State raked in over $1 million after beginning alcohol sales at its football games, but Heeke said the UA is “not doing this for a profit.”

“There’s potential revenue there, but it’s not a profit-driven decision,” he said. “We don’t have the volume of seats in the stadium. We don’t have the capacity in the stadium to serve all, to get to that kind of level where you hear the things at some of the larger stadiums that it’s a significant revenue stream for them.

“Ours is really about bringing into the stadium and doing it the right way, providing the option for our fans and if we can generate some revenue, great. But we’re not going to try to make that a primary emphasis on this. I don’t believe that’s the right way to bring these (changes) because we’ve got to do it the right way.”

Heeke said the operations side of things — prices, where in the stadium alcohol will be sold, who the vendors are, etc. — still has to be sorted out.

The UA handed the media a Q&A sheet that addresses some other questions....

Q. Why is the University applying for an Extension of Premises at this time?

We began exploring stadium-wide beer and wine sales at the request of our fans. We are already serving beer in wine in Arizona Stadium to those with club or box access. Our goal is to be able to offer the same experience to those of legal age throughout the stadium.

Q. What steps will the University take to assure drinking is done responsibly?

Alcohol will be served in a highly regulated and controlled environment. We’ll use a professional, licensed concessionaire experienced in selling and serving alcohol; we’ll check IDs to ensure only individuals of legal age are served, and we will have an increased security presence at games. Patrons of legal age will have wristbands.

Q. What types of alcohol will be offered in the stadium?

Beer and wine will be for sale, served only in plastic cups.

Q. Will attendees be able to leave the stadium and re-enter?

The no re-entry policy at Arizona Stadium remains in place.

Q. What has been the experience of other universities when they began stadium-wide alcohol sales?

Universities that have added alcohol sales to the general public have reported no change, or a slight decrease, in alcohol-related misbehavior.

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