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Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

House approval of temporary liquor license for Michigan Stadium delights some, concerns others

By Kellie Woodhouse

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University of Michigan hosted the Big Chill hockey match between U-M and Michigan State University in 2010.

The National Hockey League is a step closer to serving alcohol at Michigan Stadium during the 2013 Winter Classic.

The state House of Representative passed HB 5611, which now awaits approval from the Senate. The bill would allow the NHL's concessionaire to serve alcohol at the normally liquor-free Big House.

The University of Michigan and NHL announced in February that the Winter Classic —one of hockey's largest yearly events— will take place in Ann Arbor on January 1, 2013. The NHL is trying to break the world record for hockey attendance, which was set at the Big Chill in 2010 when U-M faced Michigan State University at Michigan Stadium to a crowd of 104,173.

The NHL is paying U-M $3 million to use Michigan Stadium for the Detroit Red Wings match against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon said in February that securing a liquor license is key to hosting the event at Michigan Stadium.

"The NHL views it as an important element to the success of the event," said Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, who introduced the measure earlier this month. Ouimet said the NHL relies on revenue garnered from alcohol sales. "They have to duplicate the opportunity they would have in their own arenas," he told

U-M originally intended to use one of 12 special one-day liquor licenses it's granted each year, but school officials discovered the temporary licenses aren't applicable to large crowds like the one expected at the stadium on Jan 1, 2013. In response, Ouimet proposed HB 5611, which passed the House today with bipartisan support.

"From an economic development standpoint, the amount of people this will bring to southeastern Michigan for the events leading up to the game and the game is going to be a real boon to the area," Ouimet said.

According to Brandon, the typical home football game generates between $14 and $15 million in business for area hotels, restaurants and merchants.

"This I actually would suggest would be greater," Brandon said in February, explaining that a national event will bring more outsiders into Ann Arbor and that a noon start would likely force them to stay the night.

Ann Arbor Councilwoman Margie Teall, who lives in Burns Park near the stadium, said "residents are concerned" about having alcohol at Michigan Stadium.

"I am just hoping concessionaires will be sensitive to how much people are drinking," Teall said. "The concern for all of us in the city is that you're serving this many people liquor and they're going to get in their cars and drive somewhere."

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the 30-day liquor license "doesn't change anything" and that Michigan Stadium will remain dry.

Ouimet said he doesn't expect alcohol sales to create a problem during the event.

"It will certainly be in a controlled environment," he said. "There is certainly alcohol outside the stadium for home football games. I think the alcohol consumption would move inside a closed area."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

Here we go again...same comments as the last few articles on this...Ann Arborites show they are having a really hard time wrapping their minds around an event at Michigan Stadium that has nothing to do with Michigan, its students, or Ann Arbor's citizens. If 1 percent of the crowd will be local it will be a lot. This is a Detroit Red Wings event hosted at Michigan Stadium. It will sell out in hours with seats running into the stratosphere for cost. It has zero intention to attract Michigan fans per se, only to the extent they might be Wings fans. Lots if folks here clearly have not been to a Wings game either. I blame part of this lack of information on which keeps rewriting the same article without really spelling out the facts.

Irwin Daniels

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

At least in the fall (most games) - the weather is nicer and you do not have to worry about snow and or ice. When you are on ice (or snow) the stopping of a car takes a tad bit longer and to add booze to the equation it could be quite bad especially the way AA takes care of the streets plowing and all; if the weather is bad. Hopefully the UM is going to be doing some training of people serving alcohol - you know the "age thing 21 years old and over serving" issues that will happen.

Haran Rashes

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

It would be nice if the Senate would amend this bill to provide for a provision requiring the concessionaire obtaining the temporary liquor license to pay the local municipality for staffing of an additional 5 police officers per 10,000 expected fans for the duration of the game and for four hours after the game. It wouldn't cost the State or the University anything and I am sure it would help alleviate the fears that residents around the Stadium have of rowdy crowds and drunk drivers following the game.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

" serving this many people liquor and they're going to get in their cars and drive somewhere." And we all know there has NEVER been drinking at a UM football tailgate. I would propose that if there were drinking allowed inside the stadium, it would reduce the number of "pre gamers" who get so drunk they can not walk for a game.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Sorry, "Hun" won't deter drinking outside...just increase the amount consumed so they can't walk out.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

I've already started tailgating. Can't wait 'till these PIHI kids leave for the summer. They keep kicking their soccer ball into my grill. Can't wait for the Winter Classic. It'll be a nice alternative to watching MSU Vs. USC in the Rose Bowl.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

The only bowl little brother will be in is the Kraft foods fight hunger bowl against some POS 6th place PAC-12 team, most likely Rich Rod's Arizona team.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Hmmm....let's see. I was married to a drunk tail-gater...a drunk driver. Does it scare me that now he'll be at hockey games, too? Driving drunk still after 40 years? Where are the cops with all these drunk drivers after games...on the road with my children and grandchildren on the same roads?! I am so fed up with the amount of drunks in Ann Arbor after games right smack in the middle of town, getting in their cars and becoming guided missles aimed at the rest of the Ann Arborites just going about their business. Are these people somehow protected because they can bribe law enforcement? I don't get it. Beer at the stadium? Oh, that's rich. Oh,'ll make some people rich...and the rest of us will pay a tremendous price.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

You're right, Jane. All alcohol must be banned. You should start a new temperance movement, because everyone who drinks is exactly like your ex husband....


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

1. Who made the decision to marry him? Sorry hun, that is on YOU 2. Would you care to give us DATA and FACTS that show the level of increased trafic fatalities on football Saturdays in Ann Arbor. I bet you can't. There will be more arrests for many things, but I have not seen a spike in drunk driving incidents in my 25 years in town.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

My concern is how many fans will actually be there on new year's day when Michigan is playing in the Rose Bowl?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

Let's put it this way: every single ticket for this event could be put on sale at one location, say, a lemonade stand on Yonge St in Toronto, and they'd sell every last one in a matter of hours. Michigan football is not the center of the universe.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

OMG not again. This is not a UM event. It will sell out in hours, and 99 percent of the crowd will be from out of town or Canada. Ann Arborites clearly can't wrap their minds around this concept.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

I would be willing to wager if all the Detroit fans head to Pasadena on January 1st, there will be plenty of Torontonians and other Canadians willing to pick up those spare tickets. I am pretty sure there will not be 120k residents of Ann Arbor all in Pasadena, and the Red Wings might have some Spartans who would be willing to drive from E Lansing to watch them. Especially since they will be playing in the Poulan Weed Whacker Bowl on December 23rd or whenever it may be.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

When residents say they are concerned, do they mean even more concerned than a normal Saturday football game, when there are tens of thousands of college students and others getting lit up outside the stadium?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

I was there when drinking was allowed in the stadium and behavior was much worse.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

1) This was a given once the deal to play at the Big House was closed. No surprise here. 2) It is a daytime event, not condusive to all day drinking prior to the event. 3) Beer is only being sold, not any hard liquer. 4) It is in January, it will be cold...OK maybe 40 something if we're lucky. I'd bet hot coffee sells well during the game at the stadium 5) Don't worry---be happy.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Brad...less likely on a cold winter's day. Maybe a very, very, very small percentage of those will actually drink all day. I guess it will only take a few to spoil it for others.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

"2) It is a daytime event, not condusive to all day drinking prior to the event." Have you never been here on a football Saturday? People are tailgating and drinking at 9:30 in the morning!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

could not agree with you more, MRunner........cold and beer, not a great mix in my opinion.....

Patty Bradley

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

The NHL will pay UM 3 million to hold the game there. Yeah, they will get the liquor license. How much will it cost to flood and freeze the field?

greg, too

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

Agreed Melvin, the created a rink in the middle of the field and left 60% of it untouched. It was great time and the ice seemed to be pretty good even though it was kinda warm (mid 30's). Getting a liquor license will not bring in any additional fans (you can just get hammered at the bars nearby), but it will rake in the cash for UM and the NHL and whoever has the liquor contract. I hope tickets aren't in the thousands so I can score a couple.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

They don't flood the field..... they set up an ice rink on the field, look at the pictures from the Big Chill.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Let's be honest, night time events tend to attract more adults and more alcohol.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Those "kids" are adults.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

huh? Night time events attract more "kids" because that fits their life style.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

Now I have to go. How was I going to enjoy the game without beer? Will anyone hide beer because that is what they are use to?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

If you're hiding, you need to go with high-density alcohol, like Jack Daniels. Beer just doesn't cut it.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

why would anyone want to see a hockey game in a football stadium...or in a hockey arena for that matter?

Paul Wiener

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Maybe to remind themselves of what real athletes look like?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

that's because no humor worth appreciating occurred

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

evidently people don't appreciate your humor Cptn. ;)


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

On what planet has Councilwoman Teall been living these last 3 decades? Every single home football game has involved thousands of people drinking, then getting in their cars and driving places. The only difference is that this time, it will cost more.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Ditto Ouimet. Banning alcohol from the stadium during football games was one of the best things ever done for the sake of safety. Once again our athletic director shows his pursuit of the almighty dollar is his most important concern.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

100,000 drunk hockey fans? What possible concern could anyone have?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

I'm pulling this out of thin air, but anecdotal evidence suggests hockey fans are heavy drinkers.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

Yes, especially at this event, where the fans are much more likely to be blackout-drunk than a bunch of college students, who would never ever do anything like that.

Chaz H

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Yes, because everybody there will drink, and everybody drinks to get drunk.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

The same concern one might have when expecting 100,000 drunk football fans, I'd imagine.