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NDSU stands firm on policy of abstaining from selling alcohol during sporting events

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Fargo  - The North Dakota State men’s basketball team will see several changes next season starting with its home venue: The Bison are moving to Scheels Arena.

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They’ll have a new head coach for the first time since 2007 and will have to replace six seniors. What won’t change despite playing in an

off-campus venue, is the university policy on serving alcohol at sporting events.

Despite the presence of two club lounges overlooking the Scheels Arena court and the infrastructure to serve it, plus the potential for revenue, NDSU administration wants no part of it.

University President Dean Bresciani said it hasn’t been a subject of conversation nor does he expect it to be.

“Most institutions don’t feel it’s part of the game-day experience,” he said.

The Bison will play in Scheels for two years before returning to the Sanford Health Athletic Complex and its Scheels Center in 2016-17. The renovation of what was the Bison Sports Arena began in April and is expected to be completed in October of 2016.

Meanwhile, their home games will be in a facility that is located almost nine miles from campus in southwest Fargo. The athletic department is working on a busing system to get students from campus to the arena.

Once there, students 21 and over will have the same concession options as anybody else.

Scheels does serve alcohol during Fargo Force games. NDSU, however, is not interested in that money-generating potential.

“Not for the headaches that it would cause,” said athletic director Gene Taylor. “The revenue amount wouldn’t be worth the headache, both on campus and with other issues.”

Serving alcohol at college events is not an NCAA stipulation. The organization leaves that decision up to the individual institutions, and it doesn’t matter to the NCAA if the arena is on or off campus.

The NCAA only prohibits the sale of alcohol at its postseason tournaments.

In the Summit League, only Nebraska-Omaha allowed beer sales. The Mavericks played at the off-campus Ralston Arena – a setup that will be similar to NDSU’s in that UNO shares the arena with the USHL Omaha Lancers.

The Bison will share Scheels Arena with the Force. Presumably, most of the 36 suite holders at Scheels bought them with the Force in mind, and all are equipped with refrigerators that can keep any refreshment cold. But, in a policy akin to Fargodome suites at Bison football games, alcohol will be prohibited at Scheels suites during NDSU basketball games.

The refrigerators and liquor cabinets in the suites have locks on them.

NDSU has long resisted the temptation to serve beer at the dome. About the only challenge Bresciani said he’s heard about was a couple years ago when a few students approached him suggesting a policy change.

“But it had no broad backing or support,” Bresciani said.

It’s not uncommon for Division I men’s basketball programs to serve beer at games. Creighton, Syracuse, Louisville, UNLV, North Carolina State, Nevada, DePaul, South Florida, Xavier, Marquette, Saint Louis, Bradley and Evansville all do to name a few, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper.

There are other schools that allow it in suites or designated areas.

Scheels will have Shooters Grill & Bar open during Bison games, a full service establishment that serves beer, wine and liquor located off the upper concourse on the northwest corner of the building. But fans will not be allowed to bring alcohol from it into the arena. Moreover, the bar only has space for 60 to 75 people, said Scheels Arena general manager Jon Kram.

“And we’ll also have a security person at the door,” he said.

Ultimately, it’s the call of the NDSU president if the Bison were ever to allow beer at athletic events. Other administrators could weigh in on the issue with two of those positions currently open: athletic director and vice president of student affairs. Taylor is leaving for the University of Iowa next month and Prakash Mathew, who will be interim athletic director, retired as the student affairs VP.

“If they want to look at it, it’s always an option I suppose,” Taylor said.

Don’t count on it, however.

“I know President Bresciani has the same feeling I have on it,” Taylor said.

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Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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