• 59°

WVU selling beer at games for $7 and $9

The Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University football fans can buy beer at home games for $7 to $9 this fall, depending on whether it’s a domestic, an import or a locally made craft brew.

Athletic Director Oliver Luck announced Thursday that Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Morgantown Brewing Co. will supply the suds in 51 locations at Mountaineer Field for the first time in its history.

Concession operator Sodexo will sell beer until there are 7 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, then shut down. This week, it’s training 500 people in how to manage the sales, ID checks and intoxicated fans.

The mass-produced beer will be sold in plastic bottles, with only the craft beer in 16-ounce cups — and only in the north end zone. There won’t be any hawkers in the stands or sales in the student section.

Officials with Morgantown Brewing Co. didn’t immediately return a telephone message about what the deal means for their business, but WVU expects beer sales overall to generate $500,000 to $1.2 million a season in revenue, depending on the weather, attendance and team performance.

The season opens Sept. 4 at home against Marshall.

Beer has never been sold for general consumption at Mountaineer Field, although it’s been served in the private, individually leased suites since 1994. Luck has said that allowing beer sales may help WVU get a handle on the binge drinking that has long gone on before games and at halftime.

It has also ended a longstanding “pass-out” policy, which has for decades allowed fans to leave during day games, drink heavily and return to the stadium. Most colleges ended the practice long ago.

Event staff would have discretion about allowing people to leave for family or medical emergencies.

WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts, who is in his 26th year of working football games, said officers will increase screening at the gates, and extremely intoxicated fans may not get in the stadium even if they hold tickets. Once inside, drunken and rowdy fans could be asked to leave.

“Alcohol has always been at Mountaineer Field,” said Roberts, with problems peaking in the late 1980s. Controlling it, he argues, may help improve the fan experience for everyone.

WVU also unveiled a new fan-behavior initiative, the High Five Rules of the Game.

Those rules forbid “excessive drinking,” smoking in the seats or on the concourses, throwing objects onto the field, ignoring the instructions of security personnel and using foul or abusive language.

Luck said the university wants fans to behave with respect and “to remember that there’s mothers and daughters and aunts and uncles and kids sitting throughout our entire stadium.” They, too, should be able to enjoy the game, he said.

“We want to do all this, of course, without impinging on the tremendous home field advantage the Mountaineers have had over the years and that has helped us win games,” Luck said.

“We want folks to be loud and be intimidating,” he said, “but we also want folks to remember there are lots of folks trying to enjoy the game and to think twice before they use a four-letter word or say something that they may later regret.”

Paul Laky, district manager for Sodexo, said his company has been WVU’s concessionaire for 15 years and is confident “we’re covering all the angles.” It has hired an extra 200 game-day volunteers and is training a total of 500 in regulations and practices, even using role-playing exercises.

Everyone will be required to present identification, regardless of whether they look old enough to drink, and Laky said employees will refuse service to anyone already intoxicated. Sodexo will also have monitors in the stadium to ensure people are following the training guidelines.

Anheuser-Busch is providing recycling bags for the plastic bottles, and Luck said WVU is installing additional portable restrooms “primarily for women, given the wait times.”

All of WVU’s Big East counterparts already sell beer in some capacity, and Louisville, in a nod to Kentucky’s bourbon-making heritage, sells hard liquor.

Sodexo already sells beer in the general concession area at four college stadiums and in the private suite and club sections of nearly 20 college stadiums.

Throughout the season, Luck said, WVU sports management and industrial engineering students will be keeping detailed reports on everything from traffic and restroom use to sales volumes.

Luck is to provide a report on the beer sales experiment to the WVU Board of Governors next spring.