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University of Maryland cautioned on alcohol sales plan

Beer sales will be allowed next year at Byrd Stadium after the university approved a propsal meant to help stem binge drinking at sporting events.
Beer sales will be allowed next year at Byrd Stadium after the university approved a propsal meant to help stem binge drinking at sporting events. (Al Drago / Baltimore Sun)

Months before University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh approved a plan to sell alcohol at its stadium and other athletic venues, the school was cautioned about the move and advised to consider research that shows drinking at college sporting events "is associated with significant problems."

In a November letter, Dr. David Jernigan and Dr. Amelia Arria, co-directors of the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, recommended that alcohol sales be prohibited at Byrd Stadium. The public health professors reviewed research literature and said it linked "greater availability of alcohol with higher levels of drinking and related problems."

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Their recommendations were detailed in a letter to Dr. Nicholas Hadley, chair of the university's Athletic Council. The collaborative provided the letter to The Baltimore Sun.

Jernigan, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Arria, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, evaluated a number of studies. Among them was "The Effects of Eliminating Alcohol in a College Stadium: The Folsom Field Beer Ban," a look at the University of Colorado-Boulder that was published in 2001 in the Journal of American College Health.

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According to that study, the school imposed a moratorium on alcohol sales and consumption in the school's stadium in 1996. Findings show that compared with the year before the ban, alcohol-related ejections dropped by 50 percent in the first year, arrests fell by 45 percent, and student referrals to university Judicial Affairs Office decreased by 89 percent. The university chancellor extended the ban.

The University of Colorado beer ban was lifted last year, and two beer gardens were opened inside Folsom Field. Beer and wine are not permitted to leave the beer gardens.

If the University of Maryland proceeds with the plan to sell alcohol, the professors recommended protective policies, including:

•Requiring servers and managers to attend alcohol training.

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•Covering alcohol policy development in manager training.

•Designating alcohol-free areas of the stadium.

During the first year, the university said, it would sell beer only and allow people to purchase just one per transaction, under what it called a "provisional" plan. Sales would also be cut off three-quarters of the way into games.

The student-initiated plan is awaiting a decision from the Prince George's County liquor board.

—Mayah S. Collins

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