N.C. State University football fans are one step closer to watching a Wolfpack game at Carter-Finley Stadium with beer in hand. That’s also the case for fans of the UNC Tar Heels, the East Carolina Pirates and the UNC Charlotte 49ers.
With a unanimous vote by its Board of Trustees on Wednesday, N.C. State joined UNC-Chapel Hill in revising its alcohol policy to include the sale of alcohol at campus stadiums and arenas. ECU trustees took a similar vote Friday. UNCC is giving selling beer and wine to the general public at athletic events a one-year trial.
Of all UNC System schools, UNC Pembroke is the only university that has said no to alcohol sales. While its leaders say they support the universities’ right to choose, they don’t want to bring more alcohol into their athletic events.
“While we respect the intent of our sister institutions and support their efforts, we believe allowing open alcohol sales at our athletic events could potentially send the wrong message to our community,” UNC Pembroke Board Chairman Don Metzger said in a statement. “UNC Pembroke does allow tailgating and consumption of alcohol at athletic events for those of legal age under strict university guidelines and policies.”
The UNC system is tracking where each university stands on the issue as leaders across the state consider whether selling alcohol could create a more dangerous fan experience or possibly make game days safer.
Appalachian State, UNC Wilmington, N.C. Central, N.C. A&T, UNC Asheville, Fayetteville State, Winston-Salem State and Elizabeth City State are currently considering the change. University officials at those schools are discussing how the new law affects them, but have not made a final decision.
UNC Greensboro is considering allowing alcohol sales at off-campus events but does not plan to sell alcohol at events on campus.
All of the universities in the UNC System have football teams except in Wilmington, Asheville and Greensboro. Every university has a men’s and women’s basketball team.
As private universities, Wake Forest and Duke have been able to make their own decisions without legislative approval. Wake Forest began selling alcoholic beverages at its men’s basketball and football games in 2016.
Duke has said it doesn’t plan on changing it’s alcohol policy even if its ACC rivals do.
UNC System universities were given the responsibility to decide what their fan experience will look like when a law allowing alcohol to be sold in college stadiums and arenas passed in June.
While many UNC schools are tackling binge-drinking, there’s debate over how introducing alcohol sales will affect the campus culture and community.
Dozens of other schools around the country have embraced the policy. And some with big-time athletics programs — including West Virginia University, the University of Maryland and The Ohio State University — reported a decrease in drinking-related crimes and misconduct at games after alcohol sales were introduced. But those policy changes were accompanied by strict regulation and increased safety measures.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said he sees a safer Wolfpack game day experience as one of the biggest benefits to stadium alcohol sales.
“When you control it within your own facility, you control the amount that’s served and you control when people shouldn’t be overserved,” Woodson said. “If you look across the country, every place that’s done this has seen a reduction in alcohol-related incidents.”
It’s possible that kegs could be tapped at Carter-Finley Stadium for the home opener against ECU on Aug. 31, but rolling out the full plan will be a careful and incremental process.
Woodson said N.C. State plans on making expensive but necessary improvements to the stadium, including the concourse.
“We will have revenue, but we’ll also have a lot of expenses associated with the improvements,” Woodson said. “We’re going to create the type of environment where people can feel safe and comfortable.”