JMU to offer beer sales at all home football games this year

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — For the first time, James Madison University plans to sell beer at all home football games in Bridgeforth Stadium this fall.

Four beers sit on on a table.

In a press release, JMU Athletics announced that the university's food service provider, Aramark, will manage all sales at the stadium starting in the 2019 season and will monitor and control Virginia ABC policy.

In the past, patrons in the club and suite levels of the stadium already had access to alcohol, but no one else did.

Now, as part of what they call a "comprehensive effort to provide the safest and most satisfying experience for patrons," alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase in multiple designated locations throughout the stadium and can be drunk in all seating areas throughout the stadium.

The sale locations will be in the ground level of the north endzone, as well as the lower and upper concourses of the west stands.

The east stands, which hold the student seating section, will not have any alcoholic beverage sales.

According to the school, beer will be the only initial offering, but they may expand to other offerings later in the season or in future seasons, depending on how the beer sales go.

Sales will begin as soon as stadium gates open until the end of the third quarter, and they'll be cutting people off. Each guest can only purchase two drinks per transaction and a total of four drinks per game. That will be tracked with an arm-banding process.

JMU Public Safety was closely involved in the decision to offer alcohol sales and offered its recommendations in the planning process.

In the club and suite levels, alcohol sales will continue as they've been.

The school says over half of FBS football venues sell alcohol, while Delaware and a few other FCS schools (Youngstown State, McNeese State, Northern Colorado) have launched stadium-wide alcohol sales and others, like William & Mary and Richmond, offer sales in select areas.

They also cite Richmond and VCU's policies of offering public sales in their basketball venues.

"Alcohol sales in-venue have become an increasing best practice in college athletics," the JMU Athletics statement reads. "Among other reasons, it curbs tailgate binge drinking behaviors and provides a more controlled, safe method for game-day alcohol consumption."

The NCAA approved alcohol sales at all all Division I championship sites in April of 2018, and the Football Championship Subdivision title game at Frisco’s Toyota Stadium was approved before the NCAA ruling.

"New legislation introduced in other states easing restrictions has also contributed to an increased trend for alcohol sales at college sporting venues, including notably one currently under consideration in neighboring North Carolina," the statement continues.

They're including the new alcohol sales as part of a series of changes for Bridgeforth Stadium, including new security measures like a clear-bag policy and metal detectors, as well as a new turf playing field.

“We firmly believe that the game-day environment at James Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium is one of the best in FCS football and in all of college football in the region,” Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “As part of our commitment to excellence, we continuously evaluate ways we can further enhance the experience of our guests. How do we ensure that game day in Bridgeforth remains a desirable destination on a Fall Saturday? And how do we maintain a safe environment for everyone in attendance? These updates allow us to proactively make a great atmosphere even better.”

There is currently no plan to offer alcohol sales at other JMU facilities like the Atlantic Union Bank Center or at non-football events at Bridgeforth Stadium, but those decisions will be considered later.