For the first time since 1995, beer will be flowing outside the club level at Folsom Field on Saturday night.
In an email sent Thursday to season-ticket holders, University of Colorado athletic director Rick George announced the expansion of beer sales through the addition of two beer gardens on the west side of the stadium.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano approved the move after a discussion campus spokesman Ryan Huff said had been ongoing for weeks.
In July, the Camera asked George if there were any plans to expand beer sales at Folsom Field beyond club seats and suites, and he said no.
"It was a joint decision of the athletic department and the administration," Huff said Thursday. "We've had consistent feedback from fans that offering beer and wine in a contained environment would improve the fan experience."
The Buffalo Beer Garden, presented by Hazel's Beverage World, will be open near the buffalo statue at the southwest plaza, and the Balch Beer Garden will be open inside Balch Fieldhouse two hours before kickoff — the same time all gates to the stadium open this season.
Beer and wine will be sold in both beer gardens to people 21 or older through the end of the third quarter. No alcohol will be permitted to leave the beer gardens or be taken into the stadium seating areas, George said in the email.
George said the beer gardens are modeled after a similar area available to season-ticket holders at the Coors Events Center during basketball season, except that people must be 21 to enter the beer gardens at Folsom Field.
"We just thought it was so popular over at the Coors Events Center that we would just expand the idea," he said.
CU stopped selling alcohol throughout Folsom prior to the 1996 season. It has continued to sell alcohol to fans in club seats and suites since that time, but this is the first time since the 1995 season that fans in regular seating areas will be able to purchase alcohol in the stadium — albeit not at their seats.
In the mid-1990s, alcohol use at football games came under fire as CU and the city began cracking down on excessive drinking on and around the campus. After then-chancellor Roderic Park instated a two-year ban on all beer sales during football games at Folsom, his successor, Richard Byyny, extended the ban two years later, with the ringing endorsement of seven of the school's nine regents.
"The university has to be out of its mind to deliberately sell alcohol in a situation that could cause injury and death," Regent Bob Sievers, D-Boulder, said at the time. "I rue the image we have somehow refostered of our school as a party school."
This time around, CU is confident the increased availability of alcohol at games won't backfire.
"Just about two-thirds of our undergraduate students are under the age of 21," Huff said, "so this has no impact on those students who are coming to the game. We think our fans will treat this in a responsible way.
"The beer garden is a controlled environment, and we have security in there. We have people who are trained in alcohol service, to recognize signs when somebody's had too much to drink. So this will be handled very responsibly."
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said he hopes the university "plans and staffs appropriately" for the addition.
"I do know that when CU stopped serving alcohol, there was a significant reduction in issues, so, of course, our concern is that with alcohol and youth and sporting events come issues," he said.
But, Pelle added, "It's not my business."
"And that's what it is — business. It's about revenue."
George said the capacity of the Buffalo Beer Garden in the plaza will likely be several hundred, and the capacity of the indoor beer garden in Balch Fieldhouse will be 300 to 400. He said staffers were setting up the beer garden areas Thursday night.
ESPN reported in August that there will be 21 on-campus stadiums where beer will be available to fans of legal drinking age this season in major college football, as well as 11 more municipal stadiums that serve as home fields for colleges.
Beer sales can be a money maker for athletic departments.
"We're starting so small, I don't know if it will or it won't be," George said. "We figured we would put these in and see what the fans think, see if they like them and then go from there. I don't know that they will be a huge money maker because they are so small."
Several students took to social media to express their excitement for the beer gardens, some going as far as thanking George on Twitter for the decision.
On campus, students had mixed reactions to the news.
Freshman Brooke Stormo said she's not sure how many football games she'll get to this season, but she thinks increased beer sales could help the athletic department overall.
"It's probably a good thing because a lot of people like beer," she said. "It'll bring in a lot of revenue. Hopefully, it goes toward helping out the stadium or the teams."
Dan Hansen, 37, said he's been a Buffs fan his whole life but only recently started taking classes at CU for a degree in chemical engineering. He said he'd be likely to drink beer at games this season.
"As long as they can control it and control who's in there and how much they're drinking, and not let people stumble out of there, I think that's fine," Hansen said.
Daily Camera Staff Writers Alex Burness and Sarah Kuta contributed to this report.