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ECU Board approves alcohol sales at stadiums

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J.J. McLamb, East Carolina assistant athletics director for internal operations, left, and ECU athletics director Jon Gilbert present to the Board of Trustees their plan for alcohol to be sold at ECU stadiums.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, July 12, 2019

East Carolina joined other University of North Carolina system schools on Friday when the ECU Board of Trustees approved the sale of alcohol to the general public at the Pirates' stadiums and venues.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law on June 26 giving universities the option to expand their alcohol sales. The ECU board unanimously supported the expansion, joining N.C. State whose trustees had given unanimous approval to the option two days earlier.

“I think there will be an allure of it initially, but eventually that will subside and be the new normal,” Pirate athletics director Jon Gilbert said after the trustees' nod.

ECU plays in the American Athletic Conference, which already had nine of its 12 members selling alcohol to the general public for football games.

The Pirates were selling beer and wine only to select fans during football, basketball and baseball contests. This change could open up a new revenue stream for ECU, which is actively trying to increase its revenue in athletics and on the main campus.

"We don't know what our total expenses will be and there are a lot of factors that go into selling alcohol — weather, attendance and our performance — but everything is driven by attendance,” senior associate AD for internal operations J.J. McLamb said during his and Gilbert's presentation to the board. “The more people we have in the stands, the more opportunity we have to sell."

ECU now plans to begin alcohol sales at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium this fall for football games and Minges Coliseum for men's and women's basketball. Sales during baseball games at Clark-LeClair Stadium will be added for the spring semester.

Johnson Stadium (housing women's soccer and lacrosse), the ECU Softball Stadium and the Pirates' track and field complex also meet the criteria for the issuance of a permit to sell alcoholic beverages, but McLamb said sales will occur only at football, baseball and basketball games for the upcoming school year.

The law states that beer and wine can be sold inside venues and up to 500 feet beyond the venues' outermost boundaries.

Student Government Association President Colin Johnson said he would like to hear updates during the fall and after football season on ECU alcohol sales procedures and finances. Gilbert and interim chancellor Dan Gerlach agreed that those are necessary steps to take.

"We are going to have a task force of people from across campus to address concerns about not only making money ... but in doing so responsibly," Gerlach said. "Part of it is the experience to study other venues, as I have had the chance to do, is that it actually reduces some of the abuses that are sometimes seen. That may be credible, since you know you have the opportunity to have access (to alcohol) inside the stadium.

"We will not jeopardize the safety of our students and our fan experience," he said. "It is all about the fan experience, so we do not need a bad experience."

McLamb said there will be a total of 48 points of sale at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, including two outside of the stadium but none in what he described as a “family fun zone” inside the venue. Minges Coliseum will feature two points of sale at concession stands and two portable beer kiosks. Clark-LeClair Stadium will have four points of sale, all portable.

Alcohol previously has been sold in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in premium areas, consisting of approximately 2,500 of the stadium's 50,000 seats.

"Football attendance is down 11 percent nationally over the last year, so I think part of that is a variety of factors like parking and waiting in lines, concessions and all of those things playing a part," Gilbert said. "This is just one part of that. People can now have the opportunity to come and (drink), if they so choose. It's an added amenity, in my opinion."

The law also allows for beer, wine and mixed beverages to be sold at college facilities for non-athletic events such as concerts and festivals.

Sales at games will be limited to one beverage to a customer per transaction. McLamb said signs about rules and responsible consumption will be displayed at venues and especially near point-of-sale locations.

Friday's presentation noted that some schools nationwide have seen positive effects In 2016, the University of Texas reported a 65 percent decrease in alcohol-related incidents after selling alcohol in its football stadium. There was another 73 percent decrease the following year at Texas.

“We don’t want to do this on an island but we are going to have a lot of people at the table to determine how we are doing this and to constantly evaluate our operation,” Gilbert said. “We really want to do this in a responsible and meaningful manner.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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