When the TCF Bank Stadium opens in less than two months, the University of Minnesota plans to implement a system to deter alcohol-related problems by administering breathalyzers to prior offenders.
The program, called “Check BAC” — as in blood alcohol content — is just one of the many steps the University and police are taking to prepare for the inevitable trouble that will come with bringing football back to campus. University police have been travelling around the Big Ten looking for advice on alcohol enforcement and traffic control to get ready.
Check BAC is modeled after a University of Wisconsin-Madison program. If a student is caught for underage consumption or ejected from the stadium for public intoxication, they are automatically enrolled in the program. If the student comes back to a game that same season, they will be required to provide a breath sample on a portable breath tester.
If they are underage and have alcohol in their system, they will not be allowed entry into the game. Even if they are of age, depending on their level on intoxication, they might not be admitted into the stadium.
The University has also created specific tailgating rules that outline where and how tailgating will be acceptable. Earlier this year the University went to the state Legislature hoping to gain authority to create and enforce their own criminal ordinances, which would allow University police to create specific laws that pertain to tailgating.
The bill was not passed, so any violations of the University’s tailgating rules will be a civil matter and will involve the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity for University students.
University police are meeting weekly with the OSCAI, as well as with food vendors, Parking and Transportation Services , the Department of Emergency Management and athletics department personnel to prepare for issues inside and immediately outside of the stadium.
Multiple meetings are happening on a daily basis as University police try to hear and attend to concerns from various University departments and local businesses.
University Police Chief Greg Hestness said the logistical planning behind the stadium is taking up about 75 percent of his time.
University police have hired dozens of police officers from more than 20 other jurisdictions to help out on a part-time basis, in addition to their own 46 full-time officers, bringing the total number of game-day police to about 100.
Though many who will be working the games this fall have worked Gophers games at the Metrodome, all officers working at the new stadium will have to go through orientation sessions in late July and early August to become familiar with the stadium, as well as how the logistics of tailgating and traffic control will work.
Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the stadium being on campus will mean less traffic downtown.
“There will be an increased awareness for the 2nd precinct because of potentially more tailgating on game days,” Garcia said. “But that’s something we’re working pretty closely with the UMPD to coordinate.”
University Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said they are used to dealing with 50,000-plus fans, but the new stadium will bring a new culture and experience to everyone involved on game day.
“We’ve learned from our Big Ten peers to just do it right from the start,” Miner said. “Other institutions have had problems where a culture developed of not following the rules. We can’t let things get out of control from the start.”
For example, Ohio State University experienced mini-riots on a game-by-game basis in the early 2000s. University police visited OSU last year when they played Minnesota and looked at how the school’s police handled issues such as alcohol enforcement, traffic control and homeland security as part of the game day operation.
With uniforms still being ordered, officers still being trained and some plans still in the works, Miner is certain about one thing: “We’re looking forward to getting the first game behind us.”