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Carolina leadership

South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner and President Harris Pastides.

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina fans may soon have the option to buy alcohol at Williams-Brice Stadium, or at any other Gamecock sports venue, but it may not be available for the team’s first home game.

Ray Tanner, speaking at Friday’s board of trustees meeting, said the athletic department is still in the “information gathering” portion of the decision-making process and, if alcohol sales ultimately do happen, some work will still need to happen at Williams-Brice before those dreams become a reality.

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“I’m speaking personally and not as the university. We’re in an information-gathering (stage). It’s going to take a lot of time,” Tanner said. “How much does it cost you to implement? Not how much are you going to make, but what’s it cost to implement? How much security do you need? What are the points of sale?

"Most stadiums in the Southeastern Conference didn’t prepare for this many years ago; NFL stadiums did, so we have a lot of work to do to decide if it works and how it works. Then you have questions about if it’s going to be good for the seating bowl, how it affects families. There are more questions than answers right now.”

Williams-Brice is set to undergo a $22.5 million renovation starting immediately after the 2019 season ends, and upgrades there could include different places to sell alcohol to the general seating areas.

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South Carolina already sells alcohol in its premium seating areas, but the SEC passed legislation recently at its spring meetings to give schools the option of selling alcohol to those in the general bowl.

The decision on whether or not South Carolina will sell alcohol will come directly from the board of trustees but Tanner didn’t say when that vote was expected to come or if it would even come before the start of the football season.

The Gamecocks kick off the 2019-20 season in 85 days, traveling to Charlotte to play North Carolina. Their home opener is the following week (Sept. 7) against Charleston Southern.

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“Whether it’ll be later this month or some other time, I’m not sure,” Tanner said. “Football season’s closing in on us so that would be a challenge to get there. If the board says we’ll go there, then that’s what we’ll do. I will tell you we would have a lot of work to do should that be the decision.”

The SEC passed its legislation a week ago and since then, Tanner’s gotten somewhat of a read on where fans stand with serving alcohol.

He’s gotten a lot of responses, he said, but not much clarity one way or another.

“It’s mixed. I’m getting emails, I’m getting phone calls about we need beer here, we can get alcohol there and then you get some that say, ‘I’ve been going to football games forever and I’ve been fine without alcohol in the seating bowl.’ It is very mixed. I’d tell you if you asked what the unofficial poll is, it’s probably 50-50 with just the correspondence I get,” he said. “I think there’s a place for it but you have to find that sweet spot.”

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Collyn Taylor reports for www.gamecockcentral.com, the www.rivals.com affiliate devoted to USC athletics.

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