The Assembly Hall joins other Big Ten venues in alcohol sales

The Cirque du Soleil event at the Assembly Hall on Wednesday marked a first for the venue, as those in attendance had the option of buying alcohol as part of a pilot program approved by University administration a few weeks ago.

“We’ve been at a disadvantage for years because we couldn’t sell alcohol,” said Kevin Ullestad, director of the Assembly Hall. “So, this pilot project is what we’re testing now.”

This pilot program will continue selling alcohol at Cirque du Soleil performances Thursday through Saturday, at the performance of “Cabaret” on April 24 and at other possible test dates in the following months, Ullestad said

He said the test dates will serve only “mature shows” such as Broadway and touring shows. No athletic dates will be considered for these test dates. Alcohol will not be available at Sunday shows because of University rules.

alcohol sales.jpg

He said the push to sell alcohol at the Assembly Hall, which hosts about 30 touring show events each year, first began a couple of years ago. He said the hall’s administrators have been talking with University administrators about the issue for quite some time.

Ullestad said the hall was falling behind other large venues in attracting performances and touring events because alcohol was not available.

The pilot project’s goal is to “test the response, the reception it gets, to see if we will continue for more mature shows in the fall,” Ullestad said.

The University will join other Big Ten schools that allow the sale of alcohol, according to stadium officials.

Schools such as Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin only allow sales of alcohol to those at the suite levels or premium seating. The Ohio State University allows the sale of alcohol during concerts and non-school performances at the Value City Arena, the school’s venue for basketball and hockey, but not at football games at Ohio Stadium.

Garry Bowman, director of athletics communications at the University of Minnesota, said its venues once offered the sale of alcohol, but things changed once the new TCF Bank Stadium opened for the football team.

“The legislature pushed back on us. It was an all or nothing situation,” Bowman said.

He said facilities administration would not budge on its policy of not selling alcohol in the student section, which is 20 percent of the ticket base.

Bowman said the same no-alcohol policy will be enforced when rock band U2 plays at TCF Bank Stadium on June 27 as part of the band’s summer stadium tour.

Other schools such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State University do not allow any alcohol to be sold at any of their venues.

Penn State University will observe how the University handles this program. The school currently does not sell alcohol at the Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State’s basketball venue.

“We are looking at the effects and evaluating the positives and negatives,” said Al Karosas, associate general manager of the Bryce Jordan Center.

Karosas said he believes the Assembly Hall’s pilot program will work.

“(If) handled properly it will be a good move for the University and the venue,” Karosas said.