Committee to consider alcohol ban at Hawaii games

Updated: August 25, 2005, 11:52 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- The Aloha Stadium Authority voted Thursday to form a committee to investigate the possible impact of a proposed alcohol ban at University of Hawaii football games.

The nine-member board's unanimous decision to look into the proposed dry stadium policy followed three hours of debate and testimony from state and school officials pressing for the ban, and small businesses and students opposing it.

But it is unlikely the proposed ban could affect this season's games -- as Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona had hoped -- given the lengthy approval process that would be needed to implement the change.

Aiona, who is leading the initiative, and UH interim President David McClain, argued in testimony Thursday that an outright ban on alcohol is needed at a stadium that, they say, has become increasingly inappropriate for families because of intoxicated fans spilling beer, falling down steps and inciting fights.

"I've seen some of the fights break out," said McClain, who has a seat on the 35 yard line. "More and more fans have got caught up in the excitement of the moment, they have one drink too many, get drunk, and become a menace to their fellow fans."

The meeting came a day after student leaders held a tailgate on the university's Manoa campus to protest the ban.

Grant Teichman, a junior at the university and president of the student association, said the ban would infringe on the rights of those who can legally drink.

"It's pretty clear across the nation that banning alcohol doesn't stop the problem," said Teichman, noting that the student association represents 13,000 undergraduate students, of which half are age 21 or older. "Let's pick the best solution and not the fastest one."

Stadium authority members assigned a three-member task force to investigate possible effects the ban could have on vendors contracted to sell beer and food during games as well as ticket sales. They will also look into alternatives to an outright alcohol ban inside the 50,000-seat facility and its parking lot.

The proposal follows a national trend toward "dry" stadiums at Western Athletic Conference schools such as Boise State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and Utah, as well as a number of schools in the Pacific-10 Conference.

Chad Hoffmeister, vice president and general manager of Anheuser Busch Sales of Hawaii, which employs some 10,000 local workers, said that when Colorado State adopted a similar ban, more fans began arriving drunk at games.

"Prohibiting beer sales ... will do nothing to solve the problem," he said.

Food vendor James Von Rohr, who operates Poke to Go, said the ban would decrease sales of his salty, fresh-fish appetizers at the stadium.

"It would cripple us," said Von Rohr, who opened the store with eight employees last season. "It would shut us down."

In testimony backing the ban, Carol McNamee of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said fans who abuse alcohol also become dangerous drivers once the game is over.

"If we as adults are incapable of enjoying a two or three hour football game without beer ... then we are sending a dangerous message to our youth," she said.

This season's opening game for the Hawaii football team is set for Sept. 3 against two-time national champion Southern California.

Even if the full board recommends a ban in October, it would be at least 45 days for the ban to take effect. The earliest it could be implemented would be mid-December, which is past the final, Dec. 3 home game between the Warriors and San Diego State.

Alcohol sales brought the stadium $517,000 during the last season. Under current stadium policy, officials may halt sales of alcohol if they decide fans have had too much to drink, and expel those who create trouble. Fans who are kicked out are not prohibited from attending future games.

If approved, the ban would only apply to University of Hawaii games, and alcohol would still be allowed at the Pro Bowl. Aloha Stadium has hosted the annual NFL all-star game since 1980.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press