Beer, wine coming to Lobo stadium

(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Journal Staff Writer

It appears Lobo fans will be able to enjoy a brew and cup of wine – legally – at University Stadium this fall.

University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs wants to sell beer and wine during football games to lure more fans and revenue, and he has the support of UNM President Bob Frank and Board of Regents President Rob Doughty.

“There is revenue to be made and it would help us to increase attendance,” Krebs said Tuesday morning during a presentation to the regents’ Finance and Facilities Committee meeting. He said the university already has the proper state licenses to sell alcohol to the public at both University Stadium and WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.

Previously, alcohol has been available in select areas at both venues such as at the high-end suites.

Krebs said he would like to start the sale of beer and wine for football games to the general public.

He said full alcohol sales were available at the recent Nitro Circus event, a show that includes motocross, BMX stunt riders, which was held in the stadium.

He said that event drew about 7,000 guests and generated roughly $12,000 in alcohol sales without major issues.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the university could make through alcohol revenues at football or basketball games.

Krebs said staff was “leery” of starting alcohol sales at the basketball arena because tighter spaces could mean more issues. Accordingly, he said plans for Pit sales are still under consideration.

A UNM news release said the school is requesting approval to sell beer and wine at the stadium, but there are few – if any – obstacles.

University counsel Elsa Cole said it was up to the regents’ discretion whether they want to weigh in on the plan or accept the information without discussion. So long as the UNM President Frank agrees with the plan, athletics can start alcohol sales without a vote from regents, she said.

Frank said he has approved the plan and unless the regents say “hold this, we have big concerns,” it will go forward.

The plan is to be presented before the full board of regents at Friday’s meeting. It’s currently listed as an information item, which means regents wouldn’t vote on the issue.

Doughty, who serves on the finance committee, echoed sentiments expressed by Frank and Krebs – that it benefits fans and may curb troublesome behaviors associated with alcohol, such as binge drinking in the parking lot or sneaking alcohol into the stadium.

Thousands of fans enjoy tailgating before the games, and alcohol is a large factor. Fans have also been known to find creative ways to smuggle alcohol into the stadium.

“NMSU took a similar step last fall, and Isotopes Stadium, right across the street, has had alcohol as a part of its concession service for years,” Doughty said in a statement. “Like those venues, we are a family friendly environment, and efforts will be made to promote responsible alcohol consumption.”

Other schools such as Colorado State and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas sell alcohol at their athletic venues, Krebs said.

Krebs said he and UNM Police Chief Kevin McCabe have spoken about the plan, and both agree a heavier police presence would be needed in the venues if general alcohol sales were allowed.

Krebs also said alcohol sales would be “heavily monitored.”

Student Regent Ryan Berryman said conversations about safety are needed, and suggested sales be cut off at the end of third quarter of football games.

Lobo athletics has struggled to stay in the black. Basketball attendance has fallen in recent years, and attendance at football games has increased but still falls far short of capacity.

Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Tanner Tixier said he “does not foresee a huge influx” of drunken drivers in the area as a result of serving alcohol at the events. He said there is not a problem with drunken drivers when the Isotopes play home games.

Krebs said he is looking at getting another license that would allow alcohol sales at the university’s baseball, softball and tennis venues. And regent Marron Lee suggested sale of alcohol might be viable at the Popejoy Concert Hall.

According to the news release, the university is developing sales policies for alcohol that would limit transactions to two drinks at a time and a four-drink limit.

In 2010, the Albuquerque City Council blocked the university’s attempt to sell alcohol to select ticket holders. But the city ultimately lost that dispute, and UNM started serving alcohol to some areas of the Pit and stadium. But the majority of ticket holders do not have access to alcohol sales.

Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis said he initially voted against UNM serving alcohol at all, and still doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

But he added he had no say in the matter.

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