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September 18, 2004

Alcohol-Impaired Fans Impact Others

FROM THE REVELRY AND RAZZING SO PREVALENT IN FOOTBALL come the latest series of initiatives to minimize the excesses and exuberance caused by drinking too much too fast.

Many of the problems have been at the professional level, but more and more ugliness has spread to the college ranks. Just in the past two weeks, there was a tailgate killing at North Carolina State. Also, alcohol sales were banned at Colorado State U’s Hughes Stadium after a 19 year old student died of alcohol poisoning. The 126 lb. coed was thought to have consumed 30-40 drinks over a 10-hour time period! She had a blood alcohol content of .436.

To be sure, there is boorish behavior associated with many sports, but football presents special difficulties: elaborate tailgating, weekend games and huge attendance numbers.

Prohibition is not a viable option, particularly since alcohol accounts for up to 75% of the revenue stream in some pro athletic venues. For example, when alcohol sales were suspended at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre some $150,000 in revenue was lost for just one event.

Instead, facilities managers have stepped up alcohol management initiatives, focusing on prevention of underage wannabe drinking and turning off the spigot for patrons approaching drunkenness. The entire complement of game-day employees—ticket-takers, parking lot attendants, ushers, etc.—have to be trained for intervention techniques for inebriated guests.

Stopping sales after the third quarter (or the seventh inning), goes only so far. Indeed, a Clips editor at Boston’s Fenway Park last week observed hundreds of fans in the beer line during the seventh inning. This was no big deal—except that at least a third of them were still drinking a full 20-oz. cup of beer—while waiting to buy two more.

Mini binge drinking. A rite of passage?

(this 291 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 4000 word article from the Sept. 2004 issue of Athletic Business and a 1355 word article from the Fort Collins Coloradoan)