MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Golden Gophers are just a couple days away from starting their fourth season in their new football stadium. And for the first time, Gopher fans will be able to buy beer there.
University of Minnesota officials talked about how the University will handle beer sales at Saturday’s home opener.
The Board of Regents approved a plan to open a beer garden at TCF Bank Stadium this year — with a little prodding from the legislature.
The West Plaza is already being transformed into an area with several booths to buy alcohol that will debut during Saturday’s home game against New Hampshire. This is one of only two places in the stadium fans can buy a beer or wine. The other is outside Gate A, which will only be accessible to fans inside the stadium who have a ticket.
On tap? Locally brewed Grain Belt and Summit, as well as Miller. Red and white wines will be available, too.
Beer is available for purchase an hour before kickoff, and up through half time. Fans can buy up to two beers at a time. A 16 oz. beer will cost you $7.25 — the same price for a glass of wine, but in a much smaller plastic cup.
The University has trained servers to spot fake IDs and to watch out of the safely of the fans who are drinking.
“We have beefed up security in these areas to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience for all fans,” said Scott Ellison, Associate Athletics Director.
Ellison expects 7,000 football fans to make their way to one of these sections to make a purchase. That means some fans sitting on the furthest side — like the students in the student section — will have to take a long walk to buy a beverage.
“We have a total of 64 sales locations amongst the two separate areas,” said Ellison. “We’ve done our best planning as far as line management and moving people through the line as fast as we can.”
Ellison says the reason only two sections will offer beer and wine is because the three-year-old stadium wasn’t built to offer alcohol.
“We never intended to sell beer out of our concession stands because we’re a collegiate facility,” Ellison said. “So we don’t have the taps, we don’t have the coolers … all those elements in the concessions.”
On Friday, there will also be a couple of designated driver booths.
Safety was a serious concern here but university officials are confident they’ve set up a controlled environment.
“This is an experiment, so we will re-evaluate what our needs are for adjusting security,” said Pamela Wheelock. “We don’t expect any problems, but as a way to introduce it, we are staffing up right now.”
And Gopher fans over 21 years old are welcoming the change.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Brian Woolums, a Gopher fan. “It gives them the opportunity to increase revenues. College kids can be rambunctious but ultimately we’re adults and I think we can handle it.”
It’s been estimated that the U could make $1 million to $1.5 million off of beer and wine sales.
They will be increasing security, as well. In one area alone, there will be 12 additional uniformed officers. More than 100 already patrol each home game.
“Anybody that looks 30 or younger will be carded at each point of sale,” Ellison said. “And the police will also be watching for ‘pass offs.’ Once the beer gets up into the general crowd, and if somebody looks younger than 30, they’ll walk up to them and ask to see an ID.”
The legislature will allow the alcohol sales for two years. After that, the process will be evaluated. It could continue or be stopped.