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Committee to consider alcohol ban at Hawaii games

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.