LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) A big change could be coming to University of Kentucky sporting events after the Southeastern Conference this week changed its alcohol sales policy.
Before the change, the SEC's 14 schools were not allowed to sell alcohol in public areas of stadiums and arenas. Now they will have that option. The SEC's new rules leave it up to each school to decide whether or not they want to sell alcohol during sporting events.
University of Kentucky officials told WKYT that they have not yet made a decision on the matter.
But if they decide to allow it, they'll hardly be the first. Adding alcohol sales at college stadiums and arenas has been an increasing trend in the last decade. The Des Moines Register has published a map showing all the college football venues where fans can buy beer stadium-wide.
"I think everybody has alcohol before the football game anyway," UK fan John Cruz said. "It just makes more sense for UK to make more money."
It can be a lucrative decision for universities, designed in part to boost attendance and revenue. Some major universities - like Ohio State University and the University of Oregon - have reported more than a million dollars a year in alcohol sales.
Kenny Klein, senior associate athletic director at the University of Louisville, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his school has sold alcohol at games for more than 36 years.
"We may have had a few alcohol-related incidents over the years, but it would be a small number," Klein told the Herald-Leader in an email. "Our concessionaire trains their staff well. We have security personnel monitoring, both uniformed and undercover. We cut off sales at a certain point, and we have no-alcohol sections in football."
At one sports venue in Lexington where alcohol is already served - Whitaker Bank Ballpark - the president of the Lexington Legends told WKYT last week that training is a big step toward making sure they are selling alcohol responsibly.
"The more that we can train them, familiarize them, make sure they are vigilant and responsible the better for everyone," said President Andy Shea. "When you like that so many other universities and professional stadiums, look at movie theaters look at shopping centers and shopping malls and everything. They are serving alcohol. And they’re being responsible about it at customers and fans appreciate it."
Ohio State University and West Virginia University reported declines in ejections and security problems at their football stadiums after they started selling alcohol, according to Inside Higher Ed and other reports.
On the other hand, a study of the University of Colorado at Boulder showed the number of incidents there dropped after they banned sales of alcohol (although the school has since re-introduced it), and Ohio State did see an increase in arrests - largely from underage patrons trying to buy alcohol, a spokesperson said.
UK officials will consider the issue over the next few months to try to come to the right decision for the school, student-athletes and fans, President Eli Capilouto said in a statement.
Supporters point to the opportunity for more revenue and increased attendance, and say it reduces the need for fans to conceal alcohol illegally - or binge drink before games - and instead purchase it in a controlled environment.
Critics say allowing alcohol sales could send a mixed message at a time when many campuses - and society at large - are already grappling with troubling statistics surrounding alcohol abuse and its link to sexual assault.
The SEC still would provide some restrictions to in-stadium alcohol sales. They can only sell beer and wine, and vendors are not allowed to sell in the seats. There is also a limit on the number of drinks per person and specific times when sales must end. The policy also requires training for staff serving alcohol.
The majority of SEC schools are considering alcohol sales but have not yet made a decision, Sports Illustrated reported. Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State are among the SEC schools not expected to launch alcohol sales this upcoming season, while LSU is likely the most obvious to do so, Sports Illustrated reported. According to SI, Georgia will not sell alcohol stadium-wide but will make it available in a new premium seating area.
The SEC was the only Power Five conference not to allow alcohol sales in general seating areas, USA Today reported. It already allowed alcohol in premium areas like luxury suites. The new conference alcohol sales policy goes into effect August 1.