Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts' conflict about whether to serve alcohol at the team's soccer stadium in Sandy comes down to money versus morals.
Checketts doesn't know now whether he will allow alcohol sales at the 25,000-seat stadium set to open in 2007, but he has said he will look at the question seriously during the next two years.
Usually, selling beer at sporting events nets a team $1 more per game attendee, said Trey Fitz-Gerald, spokesman for Real Salt Lake. With the second-highest average attendance in Major League Soccer, that's big change.
However, Checketts doesn't want to encourage drunken driving.
"I have a problem with the notion that people can get drunk at a game and get behind the wheel and drive home," he said at a news conference Wednesday. "Are we going to sell alcohol at the stadium? I don't have the answer to that today."
It is rare for a professional sports arena not to serve alcohol, but Fitz-Gerald said it is not out of the question.
"If Dave doesn't want to do it, we won't," Fitz-Gerald said. "His vision is for kids to be playing in the shadow of the stadium, to aspire to play for Real Salt Lake. . . . In Dave's gut, there's the potential for that aspect of his vision to be incongruous with serving alcohol and promoting alcohol sales."
Budweiser is a primary sponsor of Major League Soccer, but signs for Budweiser at Real games promote responsible drinking and designated drivers, Fitz-Gerald said. Other MLS teams generally stop selling beer at the end of halftime, said Dan Courtemanche, senior vice president of marketing for the league.
"With the fan base that we have, there has not been a challenge in the past with alcohol abuse in our games," Courtemanche said. "It's a family audience, for a large part, Major League Soccer is affordable family entertainment. It's just not something that we've had problems with in the past or believe that we will in the future."
As long as Real Salt Lake plays in Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, the games are dry. Rice-Eccles concession stands do not sell beer because it's state property. Neither do concession stands at Utah State University and LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. But with the pending construction of a soccer stadium in Sandy comes the chance for Real to craft its own alcohol policies.
Checketts, who has a long history of professional sports team involvement, including work with the Utah Jazz, New York Knicks and New York Rangers, could look to other professional league standards about whether to prohibit all sales, cut them off at a certain point during games or allow sales at all times.
Fans at Jazz games in the Delta Center, for example, must get their alcohol before the end of the third quarter, said Mark Stedman, vice president of food services for the center and Franklin Covey Field, where the Stingers play AAA baseball.
At baseball games, customers have to buy beer before the end of the seventh inning, and at concerts, they can't purchase alcohol within one hour of the show's end.
"That gives them a chance to sober up or whatever before they ever leave the building," Stedman said. "It allows for time from the time they consume their last beverage before they leave here so that they're able to drive."
Stedman said that security officers, police officers and an alcohol patrol make sure that patrons don't pass off beer to underage drinkers or imbibe too much themselves. "We have all these checks and balances in place that we take very seriously," he said.
USU allows fans to tailgate in parking lots around the 30,000-seat stadium before games begin, but no beer is sold anywhere on campus, said Mike Strauss, the director of athletic media relations for the school."It's been that way for so long that it's just kind of a given, and people know that's how it is here," he said.