USD event-goers may have the opportunity to order a beer alongside their Dome Dogs, but likely not for another year.
A South Dakota Board of Regents task force that was formed last month is collecting data and research to explore the possibility of selling beer and wine on public university campuses during athletic events and special events.
The task force, which was formed at the request of the Presidents Council, has met twice and includes representatives from each of South Dakota’s six public universities.
Janelle Toman, the SDBOR director of communications, said all task force representatives are expected to share information regarding their respective campuses. The group is also evaluating states that have already implemented similar policies, she added.
Darby Ganschow, director of auxiliary services, and Kim Grieve, vice president of Student Services and dean of students, are USD’s two representatives.
Ganschow said they’ve talked with USD’s executive council, Aramark, Vermillion city officials, the University Police Department and athletic conferences to see if any obstacles would present themselves should legislation be passed.
“It’s been pretty positive,” he said. “So far all six universities, some at a different level of support than others, but most have said they would support the change in legislation if it moves forward.”
The task force’s report will have to be ready by SDBOR’s December meeting, Toman said.
“I don’t know if our Board is prepared to move forward, given such a short amount of time involved with this or if we’re going to be asked to continue to explore and investigate or not,” she said.
Toman said she’s not sure if the report will be ready to face the state Legislature this winter.
“In the last two meetings we’ve had there are several campuses who do feel that we should not be in any kind of hurry about this,” she said. “If we do pursue this kind of request we need to have all of our research and all of our background work done, and that’s not an easy task when you have six very different campuses with six very different circumstances.”
Ganschow agreed that it may take another year for any changes to come to the six universities.
“Personally, I see that we have some more work ahead of us. And there’s a very short timeline in order to get it to the December board meeting and then on the legislative agenda,” he said. “And so I personally see that this may take another year before it comes to fruition.”
Though USD Athletic Director David Herbster isn’t on the task force, his department is one of many that could be directly impacted by alcohol sales on campus.
“I believe we should give people the responsibility they would be granted at any other professional athletic venue in the country,” he said in an email. “The colleges that have done this at the athletic venues have seen a decrease in alcohol-related incidents since they allowed alcohol sales. As we all look to find ways to increase our revenues, this has the potential to be a very viable option for us.”
Herbster agrees that more research needs to be done before any changes are made.
“We have only looked at this logistically to evaluate if we had alcohol sales at athletic venues, where and how do manage the sales, flow of traffic, concourse congestion and security,” he said. “We would need to know all the parameters involved until we could formalize a plan for implementation.”
What qualifies as an event in which universities could sell alcohol will ultimately depend on what laws and policies are implemented by the Legislature and SDBOR, Toman said.
“It’s possible that a law change could be very definitive in where it could or could not happen, or it could be very wide open, open-ended and let the Board establish more precise policies or defer to the campuses to establish more narrow policies,” she said.
If the law does change, Ganschow said either a vendor would obtain a liquor license, or the university would obtain it and sublet it to a vendor.
Though specifics will be decided by legislation and the SDBOR, the ability to sell alcohol on campus is looked at by most as a way to improve the experience for event attendees, he said.
Ganschow added that the change would eliminate the need for legal drinkers to consume more alcohol than they normally would beforehand to compensate for not being able to purchase any during an event.
“We look at it as actually a control mechanism where we can actually control consumption of alcohol more than we can today,” he said.