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Alcohol in stadiums bill headed to governor

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East Carolina fans cheer in the stands during the Pirates' football win against North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A bill that would allow alcohol sales to the general public during UNC system sporting events and open a new revenue source for East Carolina University and other state universities is headed to the governor.

House Bill 389 was approved Monday by the state Senate and on Wednesday passed in the House, 88 to 25. Gov. Roy Cooper could sign it into law before college football games begin in August.

Boards of Trustees at University of North Carolina system schools would decide whether to sell alcohol at their stadiums and athletic facilities.

"We are aware of the bill and our intention is to continue working with university officials and our Board of Trustees and seek their guidance on the direction of our campus alcohol policy," ECU media relations director Tom McClellan wrote Wednesday afternoon in a statement by the Pirates.

ECU football's season-opener is Aug. 31 at N.C. State, kicking off at noon. The Pirates' first home game is Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. against Gardner-Webb.

Cooper has not said whether he is in favor of the bill. A spokeswoman for Cooper said he will review it before making a decision.

Pitt County Sen. Don Davis was one of two Democrats to vote against the bill on Monday. The Senate vote passed 33-12.

A breakdown from Wednesday's vote by the House was not immediately available.

Previous legislation limited beer and wine sales to select groups within UNC system stadiums. ECU already had been selling beer and wine to private groups for football, basketball and baseball games.

The university has seen attendance for football games decline during recent losing seasons, and both the university and athletics department are facing financial challenges.

Pirate baseball coach Cliff Godwin has pushed for years for beer sales at Clark-LeClair Stadium, which this year led to the Pirates for the first time selling alcohol during the regular season exclusively to ECU baseball season-ticket holders who also were Pirate Club members. Sales occurred at a tented area outside of the home bullpen in left field.

Beer was available when the Pirates played their NCAA super regional series June 7-8 at Louisville, an Atlantic Coast Conference member, at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Ky. ECU did not have its beer-selling tent open the previous weekend when it hosted during the NCAA regional round.

Supporters of the bill say it gives universities an additional source of revenue and greater control to curb unsafe drinking habits. Opponents worry that it would create a disruptive atmosphere at athletic events and exacerbate drinking problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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