Penn State didn’t tell townships, EMS about stadium alcohol plans beforehand. Some have concerns

·3 min read

Penn State did not consult at least two Centre Region municipalities and the emergency medical service that covers Happy Valley about its plan to expand alcohol sales at Beaver Stadium, though administrators did not express a high level of concern about the proposal.

Neither State College nor College Township — where the stadium is located — were brought into the fold until after the university’s intentions were made public in August. Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics briefed each municipality on the plan this month.

Centre LifeLink EMS was not consulted either. Mount Nittany Health did not respond to requests from the Centre Daily Times.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers intimated in an email Thursday the omission was not by design.

”The possibility of serving alcohol in Beaver Stadium has involved many moving parts and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics has been reaching out to various university counterparts across the nation for best practices, information on safety considerations, and other data before proceeding,” Powers wrote. “Unfortunately, information about the proposal was prematurely released to the public before various aspects of the plan had been fully discussed and addressed.”

The university, she wrote, moved quickly to gather local stakeholders once the plan was made public.

If the plan is given final approval Friday by the board of trustees, the university plans to “make adjustments where needed to address concerns and support our broader community,” Powers wrote.

Alcohol would not be served Saturday when the Nittany Lions play Central Michigan, Powers wrote, as the proposal is still being fine-tuned. Penn State’s next home football game would be Oct. 1 against Northwestern.

The Penn State board of trustees will vote Friday on a final plan for expanding alcohol sales at Beaver Stadium.
The Penn State board of trustees will vote Friday on a final plan for expanding alcohol sales at Beaver Stadium.

Alcohol is a factor in two-thirds of all crime in State College and “significantly impacts community services,” borough Manager Tom Fountaine said in a written statement.

He and borough police Chief John Gardner expressed some concern about the potential impact, adding that “dangerous drinking is already a high concern.”

The borough, Fountaine said, does not have any data or information to asses the potential impact sales inside the stadium may have once tens of thousands head out into Happy Valley.

The police department plans to adjust staffing, if needed. Neither the borough nor College Township has taken an official position on the university’s plan.

Though one-fifth of Centre LifeLink EMS’ call volume involves alcohol during the first 10 weeks of the fall semester, Executive Director Scott Rawson said his main concerns are with staffing and reimbursements, not the university’s plan.

Under new athletic director Pat Kraft, the university has inched toward selling beer and hard seltzer on the concourse levels of the nation’s second-largest venue.

Eight of the Big Ten’s 14 schools already sell alcohol during home football games. Sales typically generate at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for schools that are trying to improve the game day experience as attendance declines.

It’s not known how the proposal could affect Happy Valley, though multiple universities have seen a decrease in alcohol-related incidents after the introduction of alcohol sales to the public.

“I’ve spoken to my peers across the country,” Kraft said earlier this month while presenting the plan to a board of trustees’ committee. “This is the trend. The data shows this. There are more people in the building looking at alcohol-related issues when you are serving, beer, wine, etc.”

Wrist bands would be used to track those who purchase alcohol. More than 300 staff members would be hired for oversight, rule enforcement and operations.

The stations would not be located near the student section. Sales would be cut off at the end of the third quarter.

The Penn State board of trustees meets at 1 p.m. Friday at the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub on South Burrowes Street in State College and can also be streamed online.

Penn State fans cheer as the football team runs onto the field for the White Out game against Ohio State on Sept. 29, 2018, at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State fans cheer as the football team runs onto the field for the White Out game against Ohio State on Sept. 29, 2018, at Beaver Stadium.