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In Kinnick there will be beer, UI Athletics announces

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Alcohol was served at Kinnick Stadium for the Back Porch Revival concert on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

There may be no beer in heaven (more on that in a moment), but there will be in Kinnick Stadium when the Hawkeyes kick off the 2021 football season against the redundantly named Indiana Hoosiers on Sept. 4. There’ll be wine, too.

The University of Iowa Athletics Department announced on Thursday morning it is launching “a pilot program” of beer and wine sales at university athletic facilities. It will start will Kinnick, before expanding to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Duane Banks Field and Bob Pearl Field.

Beer and wine will be on sale “throughout Kinnick Stadium, with the exception of areas immediately adjacent to the respective student section,” the department said.

“At the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year, we will work with our campus partners to review this pilot program,” UI Athletics Director Gary Barta said in the written statement announcing the beer and wine sales.

UI Athletics did not name the brands that the thirsty and over-21 will be able to choose from, and didn’t provide any information about prices. Typically, “stadium prices” are noticeably higher than what one would pay at a bar or liquor store.

But whatever the mark-up is inside Kinnick, selling beer and wine to fans isn’t about making money, according to Barta.

“While there is an opportunity for increased revenue, this decision was based on enhancing the fan experience and providing an additional amenity to our fans,” he said.

The extra income will no doubt be welcome, since UI Athletic is projecting a shortfall of $75 million for fiscal year 2021, which ends on June 30, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortfall led to many members of the department either volunteering for a temporary pay cut or getting an unwelcome one. Barta also cited the impact of the pandemic when he eliminated four sports last year: men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics. The department reinstated women’s swimming and diving, after members of the team filed a federal lawsuit claiming UI was violating Title IX in the way it treated the team.

Apparently recognizing the potential for concerns about providing alcohol to fans who might be excited, frustrated or depressed (depending on how the game is going), Barta said, “we are committed to maintaining a safe and enjoyable game day environment.”

The department’s statement also said, “Thirty percent of net alcohol sales will be directed towards research-based initiatives developed and supported by the UI Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee, formed in 2009 to decrease high-risk drinking and the related harmful consequences.”

Of course, beer drinking has long been linked to UI Athletics, if only because the polka “In Heaven There is No Beer” has been a fan favorite since the 1960s, exuberantly played by the Hawkeye Marching Band and sung by the crowd after an Iowa victory. But in 2001, the university stopped members of the marching band from singing the song’s lyrics when performing it, after a concerned parent complained.

“The message [of the lyrics] is excessive drinking,″ Tom Aunan said in a letter to UI administrators. “I don’t think it’s right for our band to be promoting that kind of a message to our fans, especially our young fans.″

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UI Athletics rejected the claim that the song’s lyrics (“In heaven there is no beer/So that’s why we drink it here./And when we’re gone from here/Our friends will be drinking all that beer”) doesn’t promote drinking.

“I think fans react more to the polka style and upbeat tempo,″ Les Steenlage of UI Athletics told the Associated Press in 2001. “To us, it isn’t sending a message and it isn’t meant to send a message, either. It’s just a celebration song.″

UI Athletics announced another change on Thursday, putting new limits on tailgating at Kinnick. No one except RV drivers will be able to park in the stadium parking lot on game days, until six hours before kickoff. RVs will still be able to park overnight before games.

UI Athletics concluded it statement on beer and wine sales by saying, “Fans continue to be encouraged to alert Iowa Athletics about inappropriate or unruly behavior by either calling or texting the UI Athletics Game Day Hotline.”

An imposing presence in the parking lot west of Kinnick Stadium, one committed tailgater modified a farming combine with TV monitors, a sound system and a grill. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. — Jason Smith/Little Village

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