Alcohol to be sold in California Memorial Stadium in fall

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A long-standing policy prohibiting alcohol sales inside California Memorial Stadium has recently been overturned, Cal Athletics announced Aug. 15. Beer and wine will now be sold in the main seating area.

Starting in the fall 2019 football season, fans above the age of 21 will be able to buy beer and wine at eight stand-alone locations inside the stadium. Wristbands will be issued to patrons who show a valid ID at kiosks inside Memorial Stadium in order to “purchase, possess, or consume” alcohol, according to a Cal Athletics press release.

According to Cal Athletics spokesperson Herb Benenson, Cal Athletics began looking into expanding beer and wine sales at football games a year ago. Benenson added that feedback received from fans who do not have access to premium seating such as the Field Club, Stadium Club and University Club — where alcohol sales have been allowed since 2012 —  were taken into consideration when making the policy change.

“We have been deliberate in our planning, meeting with numerous colleagues and subject-area experts on campus over the past several months,” said Jim Knowlton, director of athletics at UC Berkeley, in the press release. “While we have confidence in the systems we are putting in place to manage sales and consumption, we will not hesitate to make appropriate adjustments if needed.”

According to Benenson, Cal Athletics department leadership spoke to various campus and external organizations leading up to the decision. These included Student Affairs, University Health Services, UCPD and Chancellor Carol Christ, as well as her cabinet and other universities that currently sell alcoholic beverages.

“Among the feedback we received was that offering beer and wine inside stadiums can lead to fewer alcohol-related incidents and reduced binge drinking at tailgates,” Benenson said in an email. “As a result, we have established clear guidelines for how sales will be managed, in addition to setting expectations for consumers.”

These guidelines include partnering with the Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management Coalition, an organization that works with different facilities to implement and enforce alcohol policies through a training program. Benenson added that through this partnership, athletic department faculty will learn to identify fans who have overconsumed alcohol and ensure safety for all patrons.

Cal Athletics is also offering a designated driver program at all guest services and fan assistance booths. In order to participate, patrons must present a valid ID, sign an agreement pledging not to drink and take responsibility for their friends and family.

“I mean, it could go both ways,” campus sophomore Alma Cano said. “It could also be a good thing for funding the football team, but it could also turn away students if things get out of hand.”

After a recommendation from UC Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics in 2017, Cal Athletics released a 2018 report stating that the expansion of sales could produce between $250,000 to $300,000 in annual revenue. Benenson added that while these sales could have an impact on revenue, they are not the “driving” source of this decision.

With this decision, Cal Athletics is joining five other Pac-12 schools in allowing beer sales inside stadiums, including the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Colorado, University of Oregon and Oregon State University. In comparison, Stanford Stadium’s policy states that alcohol sales are allowed for guests in “premium” locations, including the Director’s Level, suites, and the Sky Deck, while they are not permitted in the main seating area.

“Our primary objective is to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all of our fans while maintaining a family-friendly environment,” Benenson said in an email. “For us to be competitive in this market, we need to consider the feedback from our fans, as well as understand the fan experience in stadiums, arenas and other large venues around the area.”

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.