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City seeks NDSU input on tailgating

For many sports fans, tailgating is as much an event as the actual game. It's no different in Fargo, said Lee Schwartz, general manager of the F-M RedHawks baseball team. "There are a few fans pretty dedicated to it," Schwartz said.

For many sports fans, tailgating is as much an event as the actual game.

It's no different in Fargo, said Lee Schwartz, general manager of the F-M RedHawks baseball team.

"There are a few fans pretty dedicated to it," Schwartz said. "We want them to be able to experience the same thing other fans do across the country."

The problem occurs when fans drink during the popular pre-game activity.

"We prohibit mixing, preparing, serving or consumption of alcohol in a public place" without a license to do so, said City Attorney Garylle Stewart.

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But the Fargo Liquor Control Committee is now considering a change to that rule.

The Fargodome has recently received calls from groups wanting to tailgate in the dome parking lot for RedHawks games, said Rob Sobolik, assistant executive director of the Fargodome.

That led to a discussion about North Dakota State University sporting events and whether tailgating with alcohol would be possible, Sobolik said.

"It enhances the fan-friendliness of the event," he said. "We just want to do it the right way."

The Liquor Control Committee didn't act, however, because NDSU -- an alcohol-free campus -- is responsible for the land and hasn't been part of the debate.

The Fargodome is not allowed to sell alcohol during NDSU events. Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness said he doesn't know how the university feels about alcohol being consumed outside.

"It could be a controversial issue for sure," Furness said. "NDSU should be consulted."

NDSU Campus Police Chief Tim Lee said the possibility of allowing alcohol consumption in select campus locations could create further issues.

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"You're really talking about opening Pandora's Box here," Lee said. "If you open it, what else is going to come out?"

One question is who would manage the crowds to ensure the drinking doesn't get out of control, Lee said.

Tailgaters also may find themselves more intoxicated by the end of the night than if they just had a couple beers during a baseball game, Lee said. That could lead to more safety concerns with drinking and driving.

Currently, fans are allowed to tailgate, but alcohol isn't permitted. Of course, there are some who probably skirt the system, Sobolik said.

"I can honestly say, though, it hasn't been a problem," he said.

If NDSU officials decide not to oppose alcohol consumption as part of tailgating, the issue likely would need clearance from the state Board of Higher Education.

One option the liquor committee discussed Tuesday is the idea of issuing alcohol permits to tailgaters.

The Fargo Park District has a similar policy. For a $25 fee, alcohol consumption permits can be purchased for use in select parks, said Jim Larson, Park District finance director.

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The permits, for beer only, are often obtained by league baseball teams for tailgating or by people wanting to use park shelters for gatherings, Larson said.

The Fargo Liquor Control Committee will gather input from NDSU and will study alcohol consumption/tailgating policies in other cities before making a decision.

City Auditor Steve Sprague said a subcommittee most likely will be formed, with the intention of having the issue settled before the Bison football opener Aug. 30.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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