The Cougars first home football game on Saturday introduced fans to a renovated stadium with full bars in box seating areas.
WSU athletics spokesman Bill Stevens said the Board of Regents reviewed the plan to sell alcohol in Martin Stadium’s new box seats in August.
Board member Scott Carson said the decision to allow liquor, wine and beer sales in the new loge seating, club seating and suite areas of the stadium’s box seats brings Martin Stadium up to the standards of other Pac-12 schools.
“We haven’t had that kind of separation between the stadium seating and club area before,” he said. “That was one of the factors (that) allowed us to believe this is a pertinent thing to do.”
Schools like the UW have the alcohol option in their club area, he said.
The board’s decision was unanimous, but only after substantial deliberations, Carson said. All sales will have to abide by the standards of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
“I don’t personally think it will have a big effect,” Carson said. “The folks in the club area are a more senior group of people, so the availability of alcohol in those areas won’t be a big deal.”
Some regents were skeptical about the decision, Carson said, but the rules for consumption, including the requirement that drinks stay in the box area, alleviated their concerns. The members do not anticipate any effect on the student section and other seating areas, he said.
Initially, Carson said law enforcement officers and crowd management staff will watch how people behave with the availability of alcohol during games, but he does not expect the need for any additional enforcement.
“I think, frankly, it’s an exciting time for the university, and it’s more about the stadium and the students,” Carson said. “But this amenity, it will help continue to sell the boxes in the future, provide corporate sponsorship and is good for revenue.”
Steve Hansen, the assistant chief of the WSU Police, said officers prepared for a larger crowd at Saturday’s game, where they paid close attention to fans’ behavior. There have been alcohol sales in previous years in the west end zone that didn’t cause an issue, Hansen said.
“I really don’t anticipate a lot more activity with (the alcohol sales),” he said. “We are always very vigilant with the crowds coming into the stadium.”
John Liberato, a WSU donor and box-seat ticket holder, said the bar added to the experience, but did not distract from the game. Nobody abused the alcohol in his seating area at the first home game, Liberato said.
“I think the food and ability to get a drink was a selling point,” he said. “Everybody agreed it was a nice addition to the available amenities.”
The buffet area was free, but the bar was pay-per-drink, Liberato said. The smaller drink size and cost likely hindered people from drinking too much.
“President Floyd walked through at one point. The staff were always watching the people they were selling to and they had a sheriff walking through,” he said. “I don’t think it will cause any problems in the future.”