The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents reviewed expanding alcohol sales at sports arenas, discussed a changing environment for transfer students and welcomed the newly elected regents at meetings Thursday and Friday.
Alcohol sales at Mariucci and Williams
The Board of Regents reviewed a resolution which would allow alcohol sales in general seating at Williams Arena and 3M Arena at Mariucci. This measure hopes to bolster revenue after declining ticket sales in recent years.
The University has pushed to expand beer and wine sales to general admissions sections for the upcoming men's basketball, women's basketball and men's hockey seasons. Regents sounded largely supportive of the efforts at the Friday board meeting.
“Our number one goal is to provide a safe and fan-friendly environment,” Athletic Director Mark Coyle said at the meeting.
Coyle said alcohol sales could help reverse the recent drop in fan attendance, which has been especially evident at men’s hockey games.
“Obviously, we are hopeful that it will impact attendance,” he said. “We are trying to get creative to get fans back.”
Revenue for alcohol sales in Williams and Mariucci is projected to be around $250,000 annually, in addition to expected revenue from increased ticket sales. The University estimates efforts to expand alcohol sales will cost around $70,000.
“We need to be competitive with other venues in town. We have one of the most competitive sports environments in the country,” said Regent Michael Hsu. “If this particular issue can help us sell tickets and build attendance, I think that’s all positive.”
Hsu also said it could help solve problems with “pre-gaming” — fans drinking heavily before games because venues don’t sell alcohol inside.
TCF Bank Stadium is currently the only athletic venue on campus to sell alcohol in general admissions, which the regents approved in 2012. Alcohol sales at Williams and Mariucci have been limited to club seating.
The University is also looking to allow alcohol sales for club seats at Maturi Pavilion, though not in general admissions seating, similar to the current process at Mariucci and Williams.
State law authorizes the University to hold liquor licenses at up to nine locations on campus. The University currently holds licenses for eight locations, including Williams and Mariucci. Maturi is covered under the University’s liquor license because it’s considered part of Williams Arena, campus officials say.
Like TCF Stadium, the arenas will limit customers to two beverages per transaction and will stop selling alcohol midway through games, stopping after halftime at basketball games and after the second intermission at hockey games.
Regent Richard Beeson also said he’s supportive of expanding alcohol sales. “We have time and experience managing serving alcohol here, and it’s been a good experience,” he said.
Coyle said that campus partners, including the University of Minnesota Police, Boynton Health and the Office of Student Affairs, are supportive of the efforts.
New regents on the board
The board welcomed new regents on the governing board Friday after the state legislature voted to replace four incumbent regents on Thursday.
Newly elected regents Mary Davenport, Janie Mayeron and Mike Kenyanya attended the Friday meeting, even as they were elected less than 24 hours earlier. Regent Kao Ly Ilean Her, who was also appointed Thursday, did not attend Friday’s meeting.
At his first board meeting as student regent, Kenyanya said he’s still processing his election, but said “it’s just truly an honor.”
Kenyana said he’s planning to soak in information over the summer by visiting all the system campuses, talking with top administrators and, most importantly, listening. “I’m taking summer classes in a way,” he said. “I know I have a lot to learn.”
Regents Abdul Omari, Peggy Lucas, Dean Johnson and Linda Cohen left the boardroom in the middle of committee meetings Thursday afternoon after lawmakers made their decisions. Omari, Lucas and Johnson all unsuccessfully ran for additional terms; Cohen did not seek re-election.
Omari, who chaired last fall’s search for President-designate Joan Gabel, ended up losing by a razor-thin margin in the race for the 5th District regent seat, falling short by three votes.
"It’s kind of melancholy to see [former regents] not at the table, so best of luck to them wherever they go," said Regent Thomas Anderson at a committee meeting Thursday after new regents were selected.
The board meeting also included discussion about transfer students on campus, as administrators highlighted a changing landscape for students transferring to the University.
More than 3,000 students transfer to the Twin Cities campus every year, putting transfers at around 34 percent of all new undergraduates for the current school year. That marks the third highest out of Big Ten public schools, behind Rutgers University in first and the University of Maryland in second.
“Within our peer institutions our percentage of transfer students is near the top,” said Provost Karen Hanson. “We are distinctive in that way.”
Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, said there’s been a “fairly steady downtick” in the number of transfer applications in recent years, reflecting national trends.
The University has made a number of efforts to improve transfer students’ experience in recent years, said Beth Lingren Clark, associate vice provost for strategic enrollment initiatives. That included adding programming designed for transfer students during orientation and Welcome Week.
The University has also worked to make it easier for students to see if course credit from other schools will transfer, said University Registrar Sue Van Voorhis.
However, transfer students report being less satisfied with their overall University experience than other new entering freshmen, according to data from the Student Experience in the Research University survey. Transfers also reported less satisfaction with access to courses and clarity of program requirements.
“The University of Minnesota, probably more so than any land-grant college in America, has been friendly to transfer students,” said Regent Thomas Anderson, praising the transfer program as “a pathway for Minnesota students to get their degree” while saving money.
More than half of transfer students come from Minnesota colleges and universities, including from other schools in the University system and from other institutions, like Normandale Community College.
With rising pressure to keep the University accessible for Minnesota residents, Hanson said the school may need to revisit the balance between new entering freshmen and transfer students in the upcoming systemwide strategic plan.
“For every spot that we maintain to allow a transfer student to come in, there’s a quality Minnesota graduate that is not admitted,” said Regent Darrin Rosha. “I think that finding that balance should be very much in part of that strategic plan conversation.”
Dylan Anderson contributed to this report.