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Governor cool to alcohol sales at University of Iowa stadium

This news story was published on September 18, 2012.
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Rod Boshart, CR Gazette –

DES MOINES – The idea of selling beer or wine at Kinnick Stadium falls flat with Gov. Terry Branstad.

“I think you have to be real careful about that,” Branstad said Monday, when asked whether he thought the University of Iowa should follow the lead of the University of Minnesota. The latter has begun selling alcoholic beverages at football games played at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota currently is the only Big 10 Conference venue offering alcohol to patrons of legal age.

“(The UI has) had a lot of drinking problems anyway and obviously you know there’s a lot of beer consumed in the parking lots before the games, so I don’t know that you need to be selling it in the stadium,” the governor said.

Branstad said he was aware that universities are looking for ways to raise money by signing contracts with shoe companies, soft drink purveyors and, in the UI’s case, Anheuser-Busch Inc., but he did not believe the practice should spread to selling alcohol at athletic venues.

A growing number of universities across the country are considering selling alcohol stadiumwide, not just in luxury suites and seating areas.

The University of Iowa sold $111,000 in alcohol at Kinnick Stadium during the 2010 football season, which put the UI second among the four Big 10 schools that sold booze in stadium suites for that year. Iowa State University sold $78,672 in beer and wine over seven home games in 2010 at Jack Trice Stadium.

“The current policy allowing the sale of beer and wine in the Kinnick Stadium suites has been in place and working well since 2006,” Barta told The Gazette via a September 2011 email. “We don’t have any plans to adjust the policy or expand sales to other parts of the stadium.”

The UI approved plans to sell alcohol in Kinnick’s 46 luxury boxes and Brechler Press Box in 2006. Suites for the president, athletics department and foundation do not allow alcohol.

All beer is poured in clear cups, and fans can buy only two drinks at a time. Suite owners are the only ones who can order beverages, and last call for alcohol comes at the end of the third quarter.

Branstad declined to comment on the appropriateness of UI officials signing a four-year deal with Anheuser-Busch that allows the beer company to use Iowa’s logo in marketing materials.

“I don’t know the details of the contract that they have with Anheuser Busch. It doesn’t surprise me. There is significant advertising benefit, and obviously the universities are looking for places they can raise money. I think it needs to be done in a thoughtful and responsible way,” he said.

During an appearance earlier this month on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show, UI President Sally Mason said if she had it to do over again, she probably would not renew the UI’s contract with Anheuser-Busch because of public backlash.

“I’m not sure it’s worth the revenues we’re getting for our athletic department,” Mason said. “I probably would reconsider. More than likely not even do it.”

The university has been fighting a party school image for years and has tried to push a message of safe, responsible and legal, Mason said. That seemed to fit with Anheuser-Busch’s pitch for drinking responsibly. However, the UI’s logo appeared on posters advertising drink specials at Iowa City bars — a move not approved by the university.

“We didn’t mean to send a mixed message,” Mason said. The posters have been removed, but the damage is already done, she said.

On a separate matter, the Iowa Executive Council voted 4-0 Monday to grant a request from officials at the World Food Prize to allow the organization to serve wine in the Iowa Capitol Building during the Oct. 18 Laureate Award Ceremony. “This is something we’ve done a number of times before,” Branstad said.

During the 2009 session, the Legislature directed the Iowa Executive Council to consider requests authorizing the serving of alcoholic beverages in the state Capitol.

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