Florida is pulling out all of the stops to create a festive atmosphere for Saturday’s spring football game. That includes the stoppers keeping the beer from flowing.
Before the Orange and Blue Game, one of the features on the North lawn outside the stadium will be a beer garden. With restrictions of course.
“We talked a lot about the Gator Walk area and what we could do, what creative ideas we could come up with to make that a gathering place,” said UF associate athletic director Laird Veatch. “That’s the thing about a spring game. It’s a chance to try things differently.”
The North lawn experience will include a closed section of University Avenue (as it is for regular home games) and food trucks that will extend out onto the sidewalks.
But the addition of a beer tent is something that is certainly different. Just two years ago, Florida began selling beer and wine in its premium seating areas at the stadium.
There is an SEC rule about selling alcohol to the masses during a game, although Alabama AD Greg Byrne said this week that some SEC schools are asking for authority to change that. Florida is not among them.
Twenty-one Division 1 schools offer beer sales inside the stadium, although most of them are not those in the running for the national championship. There has been a slow move toward beer sales over the past five years as attendance has dropped in college football.
Administrators have also reported that controlled sales of alcohol have reduced the number of in-stadium incidents.
But Florida is not creating its beer garden as a test to see if it should sell in the stadium. Instead, a successful Saturday could lead to a similar situation during game days down the road.
“It’s going to be controlled, and the city has been great to work with,” Veatch said. “We modeled it a lot after the way they are doing it at Gator Growl. It’s going to be a new experience for our fans, and we hope it will create a buzz and a great atmosphere in that area.”
According to UF, the garden layout will consist of a fenced-off perimeter with one entrance where fans will have to show identification. All beer must be consumed before leaving Gator Walk Garden. Beer options include mainstream/traditional and local breweries. And cans will be poured into cups.
There will also be sales of non-alcoholic beverages in the tent.