The gates opened at Lane Stadium on Sept. 3, and the Hokie faithfuls took no time in enjoying themselves to the fullest.
The return of Lane Stadium caught the national attention in both positive and negative lights as the sold-out crowd sparked internet debate about concerns regarding the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. Long concession lines, people sitting in incorrect seats, and a lack of enforcement of mask-wearing in enclosed areas forced an apology from Virginia Tech on the Tuesday following the game.
Back in June, Virginia Tech approved the sale of alcoholic beverages at Lane Stadium in all areas of the stadium, in the hopes of enhancing the game day experience. After everything that transpired at Virginia Tech’s home opener, it’s now in question whether the sale of alcoholic beverages should continue to be allowed.
Alcohol and college football stadiums have shared common ground since the beginning of college football, long before anyone was selling drinks inside the stadium. Tailgating has become a mainstay for sporting events across the world, and having intoxicated fans in the stands is an extremely popular concept.
The scenes at Lane on Sept. 3 were not pretty, but blaming alcohol consumption is a very easy cop-out. The game was not just any other game taking place in Blacksburg; it was the first time the Hokies hosted full capacity fans since Virginia Tech took on Pittsburgh back in November 2019. The anticipation for this football game peaked this summer as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted by local and national government officials. After what has now been roughly 18 months of some form of lockdown, students and fans alike were like children on Christmas morning.
Excusing behavior that endangers the experience for fans in attendance is not what is relevant: rather, just an understanding of what happens when 60,000 fans are suddenly allowed to re-engage with a sport that thrives on its spectators’ hype and excitement.
Pointing blame at a system that allows alcohol to be consumed during game time is ignoring the decades-long tradition that is the actual root cause of the issue. Bottles and cans in the hands of everyone from Houston Street to the Duck Pond tailgates, including some members of the Hokie community that are not of age, is a common scene on game days.
Are we really trying to explain why college kids lost their minds during the first game day in almost two years? Students have been looking forward to tailgating on Center Street for a very long time, and the consumption of alcohol on Center Street is not monitored strictly. Understanding the culture of tailgating, especially at a major football school like Virginia Tech, is important to comprehending the events that took place at the game.
There are ways to fix these problems to ensure a better experience moving forward for everyone in the stadium. For example, setting a time cap on when alcohol can be purchased could help promote a more safe environment.
Matthew Traub, a senior majoring in business information technology has held season tickets since his freshman year, spoke on the issue. “I think that the chaos would have happened anyway”, said Traub.
A potential aid in solving this problem could be the use of resources such as water or crackers — food and drink that can help people sober up when necessary. Handing out free water instead of charging high prices for it would encourage people to stay hydrated and refrain from acting immaturely.
Virginia Tech also cannot allow the mass consumption of alcohol to be combined with the high prices for food and water if they want to ensure a safe environment. Virginia Tech should lower the prices of food and water if it wants to keep selling alcohol in its stadiums, as it would encourage students to balance their drinking with food and hydration. It’s possible that some attendees will solely gravitate to the alcohol — regardless of the food and nonalcoholic drink prices — but it’s important to make the smart option more affordable for those with sense.
Banning the sale of alcohol at the stadium is a backward step in the progress of limiting consumption, as it will only encourage more drinking before fans enter the stadium. Fans who want to enjoy alcohol at the game should not be penalized and forced to consume more before entering. This would only endanger students and fans more, as pressuring the consumption of alcohol prior to entering the stadium could cause unhealthy levels of intoxication.
The college game day experience is unlike most other sporting events. What makes it truly great are the high levels of fan involvement and excitement for their team. All of this is essential to the experience, but it can only be successful through safe and responsible measures. While there is change that needs to be made, stopping the sale of alcohol within the stadium is a Band-Aid fix on a larger issue.