Beer at Bison Games Gains Steam Over Summer

GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM  The Fargodome Authority reversed its approval of alcohol sales at Bison football games Tuesday.
GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM
The Fargodome Authority reversed its approval of alcohol sales at Bison football games Tuesday.

Beer sales at Bison football games may be happening. Someday.

After a month of debating offering alcohol to football fans, a 6-1 vote by the seven-member Fargodome Authority approved alcohol sales at North Dakota State football games on July 29.

That decision was reversed in a 5-1 vote by the same board on Tuesday as officials seek to form a committee to explore options of how to offer alcohol and monitor safety.

Making progress

The push for selling alcohol made major headway in early July when the idea of allowing alcohol sales in Fargodome suites prompted some city officials to question why not open sales to all.

Fargodome Authority president John Paulsen had spoken with NDSU President Dean Bresciani about serving alcohol in suites, a change Bresciani supported, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported. Bresciani is against alcohol in the stands.

“It’s disappointing because it has not been promoted by the Fargodome Authority, it hasn’t been promoted by the city council collectively and nor would it be something that NDSU would support,” Bresciani recently told KFGO’s Mike McFeely. 

Paulsen joined Fargo city commissioners in July advocating “beer for all” sales with a beer garden at Bison football games. Fairness for the general population was a major consideration, and certain questions of alcohol sales had one city commissioner desiring to delay the commission’s decision by a year. 

“There’s a whole lot of things you have to have in place before you can do that,” Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said. “My main concern is … fan behavior.”

‘Totally lame’ and ‘ridiculous’ 

The beer garden proposed to house alcohol sales has taken some flack, including some from Piepkorn, who said the idea is “totally lame.”

“Who wants to go to a football game and sit in the concourse while the game is going on while someone else can watch the game and have a drink? That’s ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, sales in the suites, Piepkorn said, is “elitism, and that just doesn’t fly in Fargo.”

“I’m a fan and I’m a tailgater,” Piepkorn said. “If I can’t have a beer in my seat, then there’s no way that someone else can be able to drink alcohol.”

A proposed two-beer limit to alcohol sales is also dubious to Piepkorn, a “ridiculous” measure that rings of unfairness.

“To limit the amount someone can purchase, that’s not gonna fly either,” he said, “unless the person in the suites can just have two drinks.”

Regulating consumption

A “great home field advantage” and renowned game atmosphere would also be impacted by alcohol sales, Piepkorn said, and certain securities weren’t discussed during the summer’s momentum on football alcohol sales. 

Possible regulations include additional security near the student section as well as a text alert system to monitor rowdy fans.

“We do need to do a whole lot of things before we’re ready to roll it out. … It all takes time,” Piepkon said.

The Fargodome allows alcohol sales at concerts, theater performances and family events, garnering “an excellent safety record,” Piepkorn said.

“They have huge crowds for concerts and serve alcohol and have done so since it opened.”

Piepkorn said the commission has looked at studies showing less alcohol consumption if drinks are sold in game venues, instead of fans drinking privately beforehand.

Next moves

Following the reversal of its July approval of alcohol sales, an exploratory committee will be formed made of Fargodome Authority members, NDSU administrators and city officials.

WDAY’s Aaron Burner reported that “the decision was made because of potential logistical problems and because they want to make sure everyone involved is on the same page.”

Piepkorn said before the reversal that the process of approving alcohol goes to the Fargo City Commission after the Fargodome Authority. Such an amendment would require NDSU’s agreement with NDUS chancellor Mark Hagerott’s signature.

“To me … this is gonna take some time,” Piepkorn said. “You want to do it well. We don’t need to be in a rush, and we have to have everybody’s safety in mind.”

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