BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey is expecting the league to review its policy prohibiting alcohol sales in the general seating areas of sporting venues.
That means LSU’s long-talked-about plans for a beer garden in Tiger Stadium could come to fruition.
Sankey said he believes there are “imperfections” with the current policy, and he’s had ongoing discussions with LSU athletic director Joe Alleva about the issue, he said during an hour-long meeting with reporters Monday.
“Joe and I have talked about our conference policy, and he’s been great in the conversation about it, adhering to the policy,” Sankey said in a panel discussion at the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast Region meeting at UAB.
“At some point, I’m relatively certain there will be further review of the prohibition. That doesn’t predict any outcome. We’ll see what the future holds in that policy, but right now it’s in place.”
LSU is planning an outdoor drinking area at Tiger Stadium, Alleva said during a pregame radio interview in September. Those plans are ongoing, a school spokesman told The Baton Rouge Business Report last month.
For now, alcohol sales are only allowed in premium seating areas, including suites and club levels, according to SEC rule. Alleva has lobbied for stadium-wide beer sales, and Sankey suggested Monday that the league could discuss the topic even before the SEC spring meetings next month in Destin, Florida.
The basis for the alcohol policy is public safety, Sankey said. It’s “drawing a line,” he said, between those with “large quantities” of alcohol and football players, many of them underage.
“There are some imperfections with that policy,” he said, “and that’s why it continues to be a point of conversation.”
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It’s a hot topic in Baton Rouge.
LSU has long supported the idea of expanded beer sales. Alleva says it will provide schools with expanded revenue streams, could help increase attendance and could make fans less likely to drink heavily before entering stadiums and arenas.
The sale of beer and wine is spreading quickly throughout college football.
About 40 schools offered beer, at least, to the general public last year, and the NCAA even allowed sales of beer at the College World Series last summer. Alcohol is sold at most bowl games and College Football Playoff events, including bowls tied in to the SEC — like the Sugar Bowl and Outback Bowl.
SEC policies do not apply to bowl games as they are not controlled by the league.
Ohio State plans to serve beer and wine stadium-wise this season, and Texas made $1.8 million in its first year of selling alcohol stadium-wide in 2015.
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LSU has allowed alcohol sales in its premium seating of the football and baseball stadiums for years. The school added more premium seating areas, about 6,500, during the south end zone expansion of Tiger Stadium.
Sankey declined to give his opinion on the SEC’s policy but suggested throughout the discussion that changes to it could be coming. He does not, however, believe that allowing alcohol sales in general seating areas will increase attendance.
“I think we’re at, like, 98 percent ticket sales in football. Is that 1 percent margin trade we’re going to make?” he said. “I don’t know that I’d view that as the basis.”
That number does not include actual attendance but includes tickets sold.
Alcohol in the outfields at some baseball stadiums is what primarily causes the policy to be scrutinized so much, Sankey said. Several baseball parks are known for allowing students and fans to bring alcohol into the outdoor seating areas.
Ole Miss, for instance, celebrates home runs with a beer shower in the outfield, and Alabama allows fans to tote ice chests into the outfield areas.
“The baseball outfield circumstance causes it to be a continuing point of conversation,” he said, “one that brings attention to the current policy.”
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