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Beer in dome at Bison games 'dead issue' for now, but could resurface in 2017

FARGO--Despite a flurry of discussion last summer, buying a beer inside the Fargodome at North Dakota State University football games isn't on tap this season.

FARGO-Despite a flurry of discussion last summer, buying a beer inside the Fargodome at North Dakota State University football games isn't on tap this season.

After discussing ways to offer beer sales inside the Fargodome at Bison games, like creating a beer garden or limiting guests to two beers, NDSU and Fargodome officials have made no changes to the rule prohibiting alcohol sales in the dome during games. Any change to the policy would most likely have to come in 2017, when NDSU's contract with the facility is up for renewal.

The issue heated up last summer after a member of the Fargo Dome Authority, the governing board for the city-owned facility, said NDSU officials would be interested in lifting the ban on booze sales during games, but only in the private suites mostly held by big donors and local companies.

Some Dome Authority members, and the city commissioners who oversee the board, then pushed for expanding any relaxation of the beer-sales ban to the general public. But NDSU President Dean Bresciani indicated he had concerns with beer in the stands.

So the Dome Authority voted in July to support alcohol sales in the suites and in a beer garden available to all patrons, a move that would also require the approval of NDSU, the state's university system and the Fargo City Commission.

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A month later, the dome board backtracked and voted against the plan due to concerns about the cost and safety of an indoor beer tent. A group of dome and NDSU officials planned to study the issue.

But nothing has really changed since. NDSU spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph said school officials weren't aware of any recent talks regarding the alcohol policy at the Fargodome. Dave Suppes, the Dome Authority's president, said board members discussed the policy at a meeting in July but didn't make any progress or decision.

"The facility is meant for the people of the city of Fargo," Suppes said last week. "We want to make sure that when there's an event such as a football game with 18,000 people, everybody has access to the same products."

More universities every year are relaxing restrictions on alcohol sales at collegiate sporting events, especially football games. About 40 schools will have beer available for sale stadium-wide when their football teams kick off this fall, according to a recent report by CBS Sports. Ohio State University, for instance, is offering beer to the general public for the first time this year.

It's not uncommon in the region, either. The University of North Dakota allows alcohol in general seating at hockey games and football games, except in the student section. The University of Minnesota allows alcohol in all seats at football games but limits it to suites and the club room at hockey games.

Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who used to sit on the dome board, said the dome has been able to handle alcohol in other events like concerts and would be able to do the same during football games. He said one of the major concerns, though, is the higher number of underage people who attend NDSU games.

On the other hand, Piepkorn said allowing alcohol sales would bring in much more revenue for both the city and NDSU. Each would receive an estimated $300,000 more per year, he said, adding that it's one of the better ways to boost event revenues.

"I think down the road, it will eventually come," he said. "It does take some time."

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Fargo Dome Authority member Darrell Vanyo said the issue could come up later but is dormant for now.

"It's a dead issue, unless it comes at the time of contract renewal with NDSU in 2017," he said.

NDSU's first football game of the season is Aug. 27 against Charleston Southern University at the Fargodome.

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