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Alcohol could be sold in some sports arenas at Michigan's public universities

Holly Rutter collects cans from tailgaters on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing on Sept. 11, 2021.
Sarah Lehr
Cans are collected from tailgaters on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Fans could be buying alcohol at basketball, football and hockey games at Michigan's public universities, under two identical bills (HB 4328 and SB 247) that have been recently introduced in the state House and Senate.

The bills would give the governing bodies of public universities the option to apply for liquor licenses to sell alcohol at games in the universities' indoor basketball arenas, indoor hockey arenas, and outdoor football stadiums.

The sale and service of the alcohol would need to take place in fixed locations on these premises, would be limited to the duration of the games and to one hour before they start, and be carried out by people who have successfully completed a server training program. The alcohol could be beer, wine and hard liquor.

Representative Graham Filler (R-Clinton County) and Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) each sponsored one of the bills.

Filler said his main goal is to improve public health and safety.

"The universities who have tried this across the nation in general have been supportive and have seen a decrease in alcohol-related incidents and health incidents," said Filler.

Eight of the 14 universities in the Big Ten allow alcohol sales at games. They are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers.

Filler said he thinks serving alcohol during games and one hour before they start will reduce binge-drinking during pre-game tailgates.

He said that allowing public universities to serve alcohol at these sporting events is about freedom and fairness.

"At some of these stadiums you can sit in a very nice suite and have a drink. But you can't sit in the stands and have a drink," said Filler. "That doesn't strike me as making any sense, and so it's bringing the alcohol sales in a fair manner to the people."

Daniel Hurley, the chief executive officer of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said Michigan's state universities are supportive of the bills.

"The basic premise is consumer demand — or, in this case, fan demand from all those who attend the sporting events, specifically basketball, football and hockey at the state universities," said Hurley. "And who, no doubt over the years, have made the request to have alcohol sales available during sporting events."

The bills now go to the House and Senate Regulatory Reform committees.

Filler said he introduced similar bills in 2022, but they did not get brought up for a vote before the end of the legislative term.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.