Buzz over alcohol sales has neighbors anxious as football season starts

Beer down at Wildcat football

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There will be a buzz inside Arizona Stadium -- different than past seasons -- in more ways than one.

On July 26, University of Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke announced that beer and wine will be sold inside Arizona Stadium during every home game, starting this Saturday, Sept. 1, against BYU.

The splendor of another Arizona Wildcats football season has brought along some new nervousness for the neighbors who live campus-adjacent.

Lori Stratton grew up in the Sam Hughes neighborhood, near 3rd Street and Campbell Avenue and has decades of college football seasons under her belt.

"I firmly believe, if you're going to live in a neighborhood close to the U of A, you want to back it, you've got to get behind it, you want to be part of it," she said, sitting on her front steps less than a block away from campus.

But over the years, her neighbors have had to take the good with the "not so good," Stratton explained.

The fervor of college football fandom comes with a price for William Craig, who has lived in the Sam Hughes neighborhood for more than 30 years. He said they have enough problems with alcohol, already, when football games happen.

His beloved byways, off the busy Campbell Avenue, are packed full with parked cars and people.

"I just know I live in a great neighborhood. It's still a great neighborhood. It comes with issues," he said. "When they come, become drunken, and pee in our front yards, and leave garbage all over, it's not a very nice thing to live here."

It's why Craig, the vice president of the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association, said they sent a letter to the university and the athletics department asking them to try a few-game test run to see if things run smoothly.

Instead, the university will jump right into what they've decided to implement: Beer and wine will be sold inside every home game, starting 90 minutes before kickoff and ending at the end of the third quarter. Arizona Athletics said it's an "ongoing effort to enhance the fan experience," as they already offered beer and wine to private club or box seats ticket holders.

"If they're serving through three quarters at the university, can you imagine? These people are not going to be straight by the time they get back here," Craig said.

Tucson City Council Member Paul Durham hears those concerns. He is already involved with the Campus Community Relations Committee, an organization established to keep communication open between the UA and its nearby community partners.

"The neighborhoods are right to be concerned about it," Durham told Tucson News Now.

The UA Athletics Department claims other universities that have added alcohol sales to the general public inside stadiums, "have reported no change, or a slight decrease, in alcohol-related fan misbehavior."

They said they anticipate, "no additional impact in the surrounding neighborhoods, beyond the normal game day activity."

"I guess we'll see how it turns out, won't we?" Stratton said.

If she or other neighbors see any inappropriate activity, the university encourages them to call the 24/7 UA Neighborhood Hotline to report issues of concern at (520) 282-3649.

Council member Durham is taking them at their word, as others wait to see if that non-football related buzz becomes too belligerent.

"They've promised no problems," Durham said. "I, and the CCRC, and the neighborhoods, are going to hold them to it."

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