3 more UA venues cleared to sell alcohol

By: Jaime Adame
Published: Friday, July 7, 2017
This is beer for sale at a concession stand at McKechnie Field during a spring training exhibition baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
This is beer for sale at a concession stand at McKechnie Field during a spring training exhibition baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

— Alcohol can now be sold at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville basketball and baseball facilities after state-issued permits took effect Saturday, but a university spokesman said there are no plans to begin sales at intercollegiate sporting events in those venues.

Large-attendance facility permits were approved last month for concessionaire Levy Premium Foodservice LP to sell alcohol at basketball venue Bud Walton Arena and baseball facility Baum Stadium, as well as for gymnastics and volleyball site Barnhill Arena, said Mary Robin Casteel, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Fayetteville police were notified of the permit applications and had no objections, Casteel said.

A large-attendance facility and catering permit also was approved for Levy, a new concessions vendor for UA, to sell alcohol at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, where limited sales of beer and wine began in 2014.

About 9,000 fans may purchase beer and wine at indoor "club" areas at Razorback stadium, falling in line with Southeastern Conference regulations prohibiting general seating sales.

Net sales totaled $143,150 in 2016, according to information provided by the university.

UA spokesman Kevin Trainor said in a May email after notice of the applications was made public that there were "no current plans" for Levy Premium Foodservice LP to sell alcohol at the three facilities with newly issued permits. A letter from Jeff Long, UA's athletic director, submitted with the permit applications also said there were no plans to sell alcohol at intercollegiate sporting events in those three venues.

The three facilities, in addition to hosting Razorback athletic events, also are used "for various outside events throughout the year," Trainor said.

With the permits in place, "the option to sell alcohol would be available for those events through our new concessions/catering partner Levy," Trainor said.

UA earlier this year solicited bids and is switching athletic event concessionaire services to Levy, a sister company of campus food-service provider Chartwells Dining Services. Both are part of Compass Group North America.

Previously, the university had concessionaire Sodexo provide food and beverage services for athletic venue concessions. Under a deal signed with Sodexo in 2014, the university received 40 percent of alcoholic beverage net sales.

In the first year of selling beer and wine at Razorback Stadium, net sales for Sodexo totaled $234,918, according to figures released by UA. After expenses, the university pocketed $26,126 in net revenue.

Net sales totals decreased each of the next two years, falling to $170,894 in 2015 and $143,150 last year, according to information released by the university. In each of the three years, six football games took place at Razorback Stadium.

While some universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, sell alcohol throughout their football stadiums, the Razorbacks compete in the Southeastern Conference. Trainor has said the conference prohibits alcohol sales in general seating and public areas of on-campus sporting venues.

In June, the Florida Times-Union reported that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said that school presidents talked about the alcohol policy at an annual meeting.

"It'll be a conversation topic as we go forward," Sankey said, according to the Times-Union. "We've not currently changed our policy, but it's one of those things that will be under discussion."

UA is expanding Razorback Stadium, an estimated $160 million project with an emphasis on adding premium seating and suites that, according to bid documents published by UA, also will increase the number of places where fans can purchase alcohol.

"Beer and wine will be sold in the new Founder's Club and North End Zone Clubs that open in 2018," the bid document states. Total stadium capacity will increase to about 76,000 from 72,000.

Bid documents listed 19 "non-athletic events" with concessions or catering at athletic venues from March 30, 2016 through Jan. 30, 2017, including a Harlem Globetrotters game in January at Bud Walton Arena. Eight of the 19 listed events were either high school graduation or UA commencement ceremonies, while others included a fundraising concert and a competition for graduate students attending an SEC business school.

Trainor said in an email in May that any outside events at Bud Walton Arena or other venues must follow policies set by the University of Arkansas board of trustees.

Trainor said that before UA finished construction of its Basketball Performance Center in 2015, which provided a practice facility for the school's basketball teams, Bud Walton Arena was primarily used for university events and the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting.

"That was because the men's and women's basketball team didn't have an alternate facility to practice/work out etc.," Trainor said.

Trainor said Wednesday that the university "reserves the right for approval of any use of alcohol on campus for outside events."

Trainor said Levy paid the fees for obtaining the permits. Casteel said each large-attendance facility permit costs $2,500 and is renewable annually, with the catering permit costing $500.

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