ATHENS — For the first time in the history of the University of Georgia, Sanford Stadium will offer alcohol sales this fall. But it won’t be available to general populous — not yet anyway.
The Bulldogs are going to sell beer and wine in one specific area on the club level of its on-campus stadium during the 2019 football season, UGA Athletics Director Greg McGarity confirmed to DawgNation Wednesday. Also known as the 200 level, that is considered a “premium seating” area and has controlled access and the sales are available only to a certain level of donor.
However, that there will be a point-of-sale exchange of money for that area makes it precedent setting.
“We have an area that we’re going to utilize, that we’re going to cordon off and create an area for members of the Magill Society to have limited beer-and-wine sales this year,” McGarity said. “It’s available to a certain level of donors, but it’s not accessible to fans in general seating areas. We’re permitted to do it under the current rules as it stands now. We’re just doing it as a benefit to our donors.”
To be a member of the Magill Society, one must agree to donate at least $25,000 to the UGA Athletic Association over a five-year period. The Magill members must consume the alcohol in the designated area and cannot carry it back to their seats. They’ll be unable to view the game from serving area.
No word yet on how much UGA will charge for the service or exactly what brands of alcohol will be available.
Alcohol sales at stadiums has been a hot topic in the SEC the last couple of years, including this week at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla. General alcohols sales is expected to be “front and center” before SEC leadership later this week, which could put it to a vote before the meeting is adjourned on Friday.
“The SEC has had a committee working on this for a while,” McGarity said. “There will be a report provided to the presidents and that committee will make recommendations. It will be up to the institutions to vote it up or down.”
SEC schools long have provided alcohol for patrons in controlled-access areas reserved for donors and their guests. But as college football battles lagging attendance at games, there is increasing discussion about offering alcohol sales inside stadium for all fans of legal age.
Currently, there are 55 FBS programs that offer general alcohol sales, according to report by SI.com this week. Tulane has offered beer and wine in its stadium since the 1960s.
Florida experimented with a “beer garden” outside of Ben Hill-Griffin Stadium for its spring game this year. AD Scott Stricklin reported no issues and said the Gators are considering it this fall to improve the game-day atmosphere.
To date, Georgia has handled alcohol like the rest of the SEC. That is, it is permitted to be distributed in premium-seating areas only and then without charge. At Sanford, that has been in the privately-owned SkySuites atop the south side of the stadium and, as of last year, in the newly-founded East End Club. Those seats, located behind the hedges in the East End Zone, also require a special access through donorship. The Bulldogs’ old locker room underneath the East grandstand was converted into a lounge where alcohol and food is provided without charge.