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Air Force will allow alcohol sales in Falcon Stadium during football games

August 10, 2017 Updated: August 11, 2017 at 7:01 am
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Air Force fans cheer the Falcons on against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, at Falcon Stadium. The Falcons won 26-14. KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE

Air Force fans no longer will have to wait for the singing of the Third Verse to raise a toast at Falcon Stadium.

The academy announced Thursday that alcohol sales will be introduced at the stadium during football games this season. Beer and wine will be sold in two sections, with fans allowed to take the drinks back to their seats.

This will make Air Force the first service academy to allow the sale of alcohol at football games, though the practice is common in the Mountain West.

The cash-only sales will open 60 minutes prior to kickoff, with a two-drink limit per customer at time of sale. Sales will end after the midpoint of the third quarter. There will be no sales to cadets or anyone in a military uniform.

“We started a fan-engagement committee two years ago, and one of the desired improvements was to offer alcohol in a controlled setting at games,” Air Force athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “We have worked hard with our teammates on base to ensure we have best practices in place to keep Falcon Stadium a family-friendly environment. We are confident we can do this responsibly and successfully and add to the fan experience.”

Air Force athletics permitted alcohol sales at two outdoor concerts last year – Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley – and said “both were successful endeavors.”

The sales will be handled by the academy’s 10th Force Support Squadron, which handles sales in other venues on base.

An Air Force spokesman said adding alcohol sales for basketball games at Clune Arena is also a possibility.

“We are going to see how it goes on football and make a decision about other venues,” he said.

The Colorado chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving told The Gazette that its official position is to advise college stadiums against selling alcohol.

“MADD recommends that alcoholic beverages should not be sold or served at any college athletic or sporting event,” state executive director Fran Lanzer said in an email.

MADD recommends that any on-campus facility that chooses to serve alcohol file a responsible beverage service plan, avoids special alcohol promotions and ensures training and policies “designed to prevent sales to underage persons and obviously intoxicated patrons.”

With Air Force joining in, all four Division I football programs in Colorado  — Colorado, Colorado State and Northern Colorado are the others — allow the sale of alcohol at football games.

Four schools in the 12-team Mountain West do not permit alcohol sales in their stadiums. San Jose State and Fresno State has said they will add alcohol sales next year, leaving only Boise State and Utah State without it.

The sale of alcohol at collegiate events has grown rapidly in recent years, doubling in on-campus venues between 2009 and 2014. This has brought varied results. According to CBS Sports, Texas reaped $1.8 million annually by making the move. Minnesota, on the other hand, lost money when it introduced alcohol sales in 2012, according to the Star Tribune. The Gophers sold nearly $1 million in beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium in the initial year, but when taxes, extra security and other costs were deducted expenses exceeded revenue by $15,000. Minnesota turned a profit of more than $180,000 the following year.

Minnesota police reported 18 fewer alcohol-related incidents at the stadium in 2013 — one year after alcohol was permitted — than in 2010 when it was not, the newspaper reported.

West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons also cited cutting down on binge drinking outside the stadium when the school began allowing sales in 2011.

The NCAA has no rules against schools selling alcohol but has long prohibited it for the general public at NCAA-sanctioned championships. That changed last year when the College World Series began selling beer, and the Women’s College World Series quickly followed suit.

Among major conferences, only the SEC does not allow alcohol sales for the general ticketed crowd, though it does allow it in luxury suites. This policy allows around 5,000 premium-seat fans to purchase alcohol at Florida games, so it’s hardly a strict rule. And even that sounds like it might be up for discussion.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain there will be further review of the prohibition,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told The Tuscaloosa News in April.

Home attendance had fallen in five of six years for Air Force, dropping from 40,093 per game in 2010 to 26,026 in 2015. That figure rose last year to 29,586, an increase of 14 percent that ranked in the top 10 nationally.

The Falcons open the season at home with a noon kickoff on Sept. 2 against Virginia Military Institute.

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