At the public hearing on approving a liquor license for Coleman Coliseum on February 8, 2022, a Tuscaloosa City Council member asked if there had been problems at other schools that had served alcohol at sports events. Herbert Tesh, the representative from Levy Premium Foodservice, had replied that he knew of no problems where his organization had been involved.
As the Tuscaloosa News‘ Jason Morton had reported, Alabama Athletic Director Greg Bryne had said, “We’ve been able to watch the other schools and the reporting we have gotten back from other schools is that alcohol incidents at their games actually go down once they sell because it’s a much more controlled environment.”
Bryne may not have been aware of the story that had been written by Adam Sparks in the Knoxville News Sentinel that had been published in February, 2022. The article “Tennessee sold $2.67M in alcohol at football games with Lane Kiffin’s return providing biggest spike” had reported: “Alcohol sales and fan misbehavior at Tennessee football home games were at their highest on the night trash was tossed on the field in a Vols’ loss to Ole Miss, university records obtained by Knox News show. Water bottles, beer cans and other debris were thrown on the field in an incident that paused the game for 18 minutes.”
Sparks had written:
There were 18 arrests and 51 ejections in UT’s game against Ole Miss. UT sold 47,890 alcoholic beverages for $547,726 in revenue at the Ole Miss game. Those numbers were the highest for a single game since UT started selling beer and wine at football games.
Media outlets, as far and wide as the NY Post and Sports Illustrated, had covered the story of Kiffen having been nearly being hit by a thrown golf ball. An Associated Press story in the NY Post had reported:
“I don’t know if I’m more excited that we found a way to win or that I didn’t get hit with the golf balls that they were throwing at me,” former Vols coach Kiffin told SEC Network, holding up a yellow golf ball.
“I still have my souvenir golf ball,” Kiffin said. “I also got hit with bottles with some brown stuff in them. I don’t think those fans would waste moonshine. You’ve got one of the most passionate fan bases in America. A call didn’t go their way.”
Sparks had reported in 2021, that: “Tennessee has been fined $250,000, which will be deducted from the university’s share of SEC revenue distribution, for the incident at the end of the Ole Miss game, when fans tossed trash on the field to protest the officials’ call.” The over $547,00 revenue in alcohol sales that had been generated at the game could have made the penalty more bearable.
On February 8, 2022, the Tuscaloosa City Council had voted to pass an ordinance amending Section 2-103 of the city’s code. The ordinance was based on the need for funding “increased localized demand for public safety resources.” It established public safety fees, that would be assessed on a per ticket sold basis. Before it had passed, Council President Kip Tyner had amended the ordinance. Instead of there being a $2.50 fee for each ticket sold for an event that had 50,000 or more attendees, where alcohol could be sold, the fee would be $3.00.
The initial discussions on such a public safety fee had occurred during the city council’s budget meetings. On August 27, 2021, Mayor Walter Maddox had proposed the Fiscal Year 2022 operating budgets. The public safety fee had been proposed as a way to increase in pay for Tuscaloosa Police and Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue. The fee would be one dollar added to any ticketed event where alcohol was sold.
The Tuscaloosa News‘ Jason Morton had reported on September 25, 2021 on the adoption of the city’s fiscal 2022 operating budget. He had included: “A $1-per-ticket fee on ticketed events of more than 1,000 people where alcohol is sold, such as a concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, will now be imposed.”
The ordinance that the city voted on in February 8, 2022, had stated that the public safety fee would be needed because “events where alcohol is consumed require an increased localized demand for public safety resources.”
During the public hearing on February 8, the food service’s representative Tesh had said that “hawking” (the selling of alcohol by concession stand workers to seated fans) at football games might be a possibility in the future if the council would approve such sales.
The three dollar public safety fee that could be added to ticket charges for Alabama football games, should the city council approve alcohol sales at Bryant-Denny Stadium, would of course be paid by fans whether they drank or not.
Perhaps, if the fee would defray the cost of additional security at football games were added, fans might welcome it. A specter of irate, drunken fans pelting opposing teams with debris at Bryant-Denny Stadium in T-Town might be less of a possibility than at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville,Tennessee. After all, Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban has lost few games there. But arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct or intoxication at college football stadiums where alcohol is sold have been commonplace. An extra three dollars might seem well worth it to many fans who might encounter an obnoxious drunk in the stadium.