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Expanded alcohol sales could be coming to Michigan college sports

Michigan Stadium.
UM Photography

College sports stadiums in Michigan could see expanded alcohol sales during the upcoming school year.

A bill awaiting the governor’s signature would allow public universities to obtain liquor licenses for athletic events.

Schools can currently apply for special licenses, but supporters of the change say those are limited and an extra hassle.

Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) sponsored the bill.

“This is something that universities have asked for and say that their fans want, and also an equity issue in terms of, you do have this available in box suites and places where VIPs might congregate but now the fans can be a part of that as well,” McCann told reporters in June.

The change could mean the most to Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, the state’s Big Ten schools. They and the University of Nebraska, according to House Fiscal Agency analysis the bill, make up the only schools in the conference to not sell alcohol inside stadiums.

Critics argue selling alcohol inside stadiums is tied to unsafe drinking behavior.

The group Michigan Alcohol Policy Promoting Health and Safety opposed the bill during the committee process. Steering committee member Mike Tobias submitted written testimony to the state Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee.

“From talking with an alcohol researcher and looking at some of the peer reviewed literature, I am not aware of any peer reviewed research articles that indicate a reduction in binge drinking after a policy change of allowing alcohol sales in a college stadium. Most of the available research articles report that there are increases in crime, assaults, vandalism, drunk driving, liquor law violations, and other negative behaviors,” Tobias’ testimony read.

Despite the concerns, McCann argues providing the option of buying alcohol inside a stadium reduces the need to pregame so heavily before going inside.

“What we’ve seen and gotten from institutions that do this currently is that it actually improves the safety because you don’t have people pre-loading before the game, downing a whole bunch of beers because they know that they’re not going to have them available in the venue. So, this is a way to have that process smooth out,” McCann said.

Under the bill, schools could serve alcohol at 100 days’ worth of games. They’d also have five other days in a calendar year when they could serve alcohol at other scheduled events.

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