ORONO — “Fill the steins to dear old Maine …”
That is the opening line of the University of Maine’s renowned fight song made popular decades ago by Rudy Vallee.
This fall, Black Bear football fans — age 21 and older — will be allowed to do just that during home games at Alfond Stadium.
As a small part of its effort to diversify and enhance the football game-day experience, UMaine will host a “Bavarian Beer Garden.”
The tent will be located in the area between the south end zone and the scoreboard, inside the confines of Alfond Stadium. It will be situated adjacent to a handful of other vendor tents where a variety of new food offerings may be purchased.
“We heard from any number of fans who wanted to have access to adult beverages,” said Dr. Robert Dana, UMaine’s Vice President for Student Affairs. “Used appropriately, in a reasonable environment, that’s exactly what we intend to offer.”
Both Dana and UMaine Athletics Director Steve Abbott stressed the enclosed venue will be monitored stringently. Fans with proper identification will be allowed to purchase one beer at a time and may not take it out of the Bavarian Beer Garden area.
“We’re very good at managing these things and it’ll be fun, but not problematic. I’m 100 percent sure of that,” Dana said.
He added UMaine officials studied how other universities handled the sale of alcohol at athletic events and made sure their plan did not violate any NCAA policies.
Abbott said alcohol patrons will be braceleted and that only people wearing a bracelet will be allowed to possess a beer.
In the past, alcohol consumption had been permitted only in designated tailgating areas in parking lots outside the stadium. However, Abbott said a state law pertaining to such bring-your-own-alcohol events came with restrictions that made it difficult for some people who wished to partake.
He explained that if an adult was accompanied by children other than his or her own — perhaps a niece, nephew or friend of the children — they could not, by law, take them into the tailgating area.
“That really was the driving force that brought us to this [beer garden] approach,” Abbott said.
In the new venue, UMaine will sell beer under its more traditional liquor license. The tent will function more like a restaurant, which permits adults 21 or older to be accompanied by their children or other minors.
“It gives people the flexibility for an adult to purchase a beer, but their kids can buy food and soda and they can be there together,” said Abbott, who called the beer sales a limited offering.
Abbott explained the beer garden concept is intended to be an extension of the tailgating concept and that there is no intention to implement beer sales at ice hockey or any other UMaine athletic events.
In addition to the UMaine dining services employees who will be working at the Bavarian Beer Garden, there also will be a police officer stationed nearby at all times.
“Safety is paramount,” Dana said. “It will be well-controlled.”
In addition to the beer garden, UMaine is substantially expanding its food offerings before and after home football games. They will include Moe’s Original Bar B Que, pizza, turkey legs, bratwursts and sausage, and fried dough.
UMaine will continue to offer the usual game fare, such as hot dogs, popcorn and pretzels.