BY EDGAR THOMPSON
ORLANDO SENTINEL (TNS)
The Florida Gators will sell alcohol at football and men’s basketball games, a dramatic change of course for a school that long frowned on the policy.
Sales of beer and wine will be limited to premium seating at the Swamp and of the newly renovated O’Connell Center, the school announced.
The SEC prohibits alcohol sales to the general public and UF has resisted selling alcohol at game to anyone in attendance. But other schools in Power Five conferences began to do so in recent seasons as a way to generate a new revenue stream to offset the rising costs in big-time college sports.
The University Athletic Association is involved in projects totaling around $100 million, including the upcoming $64.5 million renovation of the O’Connell Center.
UF noted it now is the sixth SEC school to sell alcohol at football games and the fourth to sell alcohol at men’s basketball games.
Last summer, Mike Hill, the University of Florida executive associate athletic director of external affairs, told the Orlando Sentinel selling alcohol was not under consideration at UF. Hill had stated a similar position in previous conversations.
‘Amenity’ for fans
Former school president Bernie Machen took a much stronger stance on alcohol.
Machen wanted UF to be a dry campus and did not like the moniker “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” associated with the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville.
Machen retired in 2014 and was replaced by Dr. Kent Fuchs on Jan. 1, 2015.
On the school’s website, UF stated “beer and wine sales are commonplace on campuses across the country,” with at least 34 schools selling beer at football games. UF stated at least 14 limit the sale to premium seating areas.
“Providing alcohol in our premium seating areas for both football and men’s basketball was another amenity we wanted to provide to the fans in those areas,” UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said on the school’s site.
Texas, West Virginia and Miami are among nine Power Five schools that sold beer to all fans last season.
West Virginia’s athletic director, Shane Lyons, said last September that “approximately $500,000 a year just in beer comes back to us,” according to a New York Times article published last October.
Alcohol sales at UF will end at the end of the third quarter of football games and at the beginning of the second half of basketball games.