The Sioux Falls Sports Authority applied for and was granted a special permit to sell alcohol at Howard Wood Field for next Saturday’s game between the University of South Dakota and North Dakota State.
The theory behind it, according to Sports Authority director Mike Sullivan, is to make the event as profitable as possible and pave the way for future events in Sioux Falls by showing that off-campus games have unique opportunities for fan experience.
That has already been demonstrated at the Summit League basketball tournament at the Arena, where beer is sold and negative incidents have been few.
That said, I think selling beer at a high school stadium such as Howard Wood Field is a bad idea that could backfire for the Sports Authority, USD and the Sioux Falls School District, which owns the facility.
There’s already a little friction for this game because USD attempted to keep Bison fans from buying up all the seats, which the Fargo faithful are known to do because they’re a very passionate fan base.
There will still be a heavy NDSU presence at this game, and crowd control could be an issue if over-served Bison and Coyote fans get a bit overzealous.
There’s also a larger issue of sending mixed signals to college students about alcohol consumption. Binge drinking is a problem on many American campuses, and it has seemed appropriate in the past that most on-campus NCAA events are shielded from that concern.
At they’re shielded inside the stadiums. The drinking goes on unabated during pregame festivities, and the actual sporting event is frequently more of a “sobering-up” experience.
Nationally, though, alcohol sales are becoming more common at college stadiums.
Beer was sold to the general public in 20 of 120 major-college football stadiums last season, which is twice as many as 10 years ago, according to a recent report in the Des Moines Register.
The NCAA doesn’t control regular-season and conference tournament decisions to sell alcohol — only at championship events. In most cases, schools are left to make their own decision.
USD does not sell alcohol to the masses on game days at the DakotaDome, but the Sioux Falls event is different.
For the Sports Authority to declare that a better fan experience will be had by letting the kegs flow at Howard Wood seems counter-intuitive to the student-athlete experience we’re used to, but that’s not to say it can’t work.
Maybe everyone will drink responsibly, no fake IDs will be at play and the presence of alcohol won’t lead to boorish behavior that tests the limits of the Howard Wood security force.
While we’re at it, maybe the Coyotes will win by four touchdowns.