Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias It's about this time of the year that we grow accustomed to hearing debate on topics of importance to our lives.

State lawmakers will be meeting in Pierre soon. A laundry list of noteworthy subjects of future debate may include:

* the future of the boot camp program at Plankinton.

* whether South Dakota can afford to further cut property taxes.

* discussion on the social and economic pluses and minuses of video lottery and Powerball.

* the crafting of zoning regulations that protect the environment without being too much of a detriment to agriculture.

* refinements to education funding that can help South Dakota's school districts replace aging buildings and technology � traditionally big ticket items.

* teacher salaries.

This list could go on and on. It only takes a small amount of brainstorming to come up with many legitimate things that should receive discussion in South Dakota.

This observation obviously escaped the USD Political Economy Club, which sponsored an hour-long forum on the USD campus Dec. 9.

The forum's topic? Should alcohol be served during athletic events in The University of South Dakota's DakotaDome?

The question begs this immediate response: Why is this even being talked about? Surely the USD Political Economy Club, which supposedly is made up of intelligent young women and men from the USD student body, can hold an intellectual discussion about something that's well, er, reasonable???

Well, it's too late. Since the club brought this topic to light, we'll take the bait like just about every other media organization in the state. We'll give the idea some ink, and note why we think this is a pretty dumb idea.

It is doubtful that the people who first envisioned the concept of a domed stadium on a university campus in South Dakota ever thought that turning it into a giant pub would be an issue worth discussing.

True, in some places, such as stadiums and other facilities that host professional sports competitions, one is usually able to purchase a big frothy beer to wash down a hot dog.

We're not talking about places that are located in the heart of a university campus. We're not talking about places that were constructed almost solely to house a higher education facility's health, (that's an ironic term to use during this discussion) recreation and athletic programs.

We're talking about places where the serving of alcohol has become a secular tradition, at places and events that certainly are more appropriate than at a university sporting event in a campus sports facility.

Student Travis Rust said at Dec. 9's forum that proceeds from alcohol sales at the Dome could be a revenue source for the university.

"Students are going to sneak alcohol into the Dome anyway, and USD might as well make some money off this by selling beer there," Rust said. "One option is that students will drink there and things will go on as they are, or the other option is that USD could sell beer there and profit from this."

Hmmm ? since we know that students are going to sneak alcohol into the Dome, there's only one answer. Let's encourage even more alcohol consumption there during sporting events.

That will mean a greater chance of having more students with blood alcohol counts near or above that magic .10 number. Negotiating the Dome's parking lot is a lot of fun right now. Can you imagine the added adventure after a game ends of being thrust among a bunch of motorists that have spent the last couple hours drinking?

The notion that USD could actually profit from selling alcohol at the Dome is voodoo economics at its best. What about the added security that will be required?

The University of Colorado tried selling beer at athletic events and ended up spending more because of more cases of police involvement with students. It wouldn't be surprising if additional janitorial services would be required, too.

Alcohol sales at the Dome would also put the state in the position of contributing to problems being experienced this moment by some South Dakota university students.

"As a fairly new dean of students who is still learning and growing in this job, I can say with some assurance that alcohol consumption on college campuses is the single biggest contributor to and complication in behavior problems among students," David Lorenz said at the forum.

A third of students who regularly miss class do so because of alcohol use, Lorenz said, citing national studies. He makes another valid point � people of all ages visit and/or use the facilities in the Dome.

The notion of selling alcohol in the DakotaDome has about as much appeal as a warm, flat beer.

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