Fargodome takes first step in allowing beer sales at Bison football games
School is the only Missouri Valley Football Conference member not to allow alcohol at games
FARGO — Prohibition at North Dakota State football games may be on its way out. The Fargo Dome Authority took an initial step of sorts on Tuesday afternoon with a general approval to a change in language to its lease agreement with NDSU.
The seven-member Authority stopped short of taking a vote that would allow the dome the right to sell alcohol at Bison games. But in going around the table and asking for a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from each member, there was no opposition.
Beer and Bison could happen as soon as this season. The Authority and the athletic department still need to clarify details like percentages each would take with concession revenue.
“We’ll have more conversations with NDSU regarding just refining, No. 1, any request NDSU may have to receive a larger share of food and beverage,” said Rob Sobolik, the dome’s general manager. “That may trigger some conversations on other things that may be shared revenue wise. And then come to a general understanding of what could be sold, where it would be sold and setting the cutoff times, such as typically a lot of them do at the end of the third quarter.”
NDSU, which has never pushed for alcohol sales until this summer, receives 15% of concession sales until it hits $30,000 in total revenue, then it drops to 10 percent. Sobolik, during the meeting discussion, said his feeling is there shouldn’t be a change in percentage “but that’s up to NDSU to counter or this group to agree to.”
Moreover, the current lease agreement of “beer products” needs to be clarified, Sobolik said.
“Our license allows us to sell any type of alcohol,” he said. “As a general rule, we don’t offer spirits on the concourse. You get into definitions you don’t have the full answer for. There are a lot of different drinks out there.”
The next Fargo Dome Authority meeting is July 26.
“So go back and negotiate the final terms and then come back to us to approve or not?” asked committee member Dan Armbrust.
That’s when Sobolik asked for a thumbs up or down.
“Our plan would be to have more conversations,” Sobolik said. “This is not for sure for 2022. I do think this is a decision both parties would like to have out before the start of the season. It is something our food and beverage is working toward.”
NDSU is the only school in the Missouri Valley Football Conference that does not allow alcohol of any kind at its football games. The other 10 have varying degrees of service.
South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota are probably the most restrictive, while the University of North Dakota appears to be the most tolerant. Sales of beer and wine at SDSU and USD are restricted to premium seating areas like club, box and suite levels.
But that may be changing. Last week, the South Dakota Board of Regents unanimously approved an expanded policy for alcohol sales at all of the state’s public universities like SDSU and USD, extending it to general admission areas of a stadium.
UND, meanwhile, allows the sale of beer, wine and alcohol throughout the Alerus Center. Sales to the general public are stopped after the third quarter, while those in premium seat areas can purchase until the end of the game.
Missouri State, Western Illinois and Youngstown State sell beer only. Illinois State has a large beer garden inside tents on one end of the stadium. Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Indiana State all allow at least beer to be sold at their venues.
It potentially is the ninth amended lease agreement between NDSU and the dome since the facility opened in 1993. Specifically, it would change item No. 15 from “no alcoholic beverages shall be served at any NDSU athletic event” to the Authority having the right to serve alcohol.
NDSU does allow alcohol in its west tailgating lots starting five hours before kickoff and ending when the game starts. That was first allowed in 2004 when the Bison began their Division I football schedule, a process that had its share of detractors in addition to supporters.
The dome would be the second venue in which NDSU will allow alcohol at games. It began beer and wine sales for men’s and women’s basketball games and wrestling duals at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex beginning in 2019 in limited sections. That was expanded to more sections last season.
The discussion of beer sales for football came on the same day NDSU announced it was making season tickets available to the public beginning Friday. The school has long had a waiting list for the 12,500 season tickets, but attendance has been falling in recent years.
Season ticket seats are priced between $287 for end zone to some at midfield that go for over $3,000 per seat. Team Makers dues are included in each ticket, with NDSU having six home games this fall against Drake, North Carolina A&T, Youngstown, SDSU, Illinois State and UND.