What UA President Stuart R. Bell said about City's service fee impacting alcohol sales

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell joined Athletics Director Greg Byrne in speaking out about a service fee policy amended on Feb. 8 by the Tuscaloosa City Council. 

Bell released a statement a day after Byrne in response to the City's policy that for all ticketed events of at least 1,000 where alcohol is sold, there would be an additional ticket fee of $1, $2 or $3, depending on the capacity of the event or venue. 

"The University of Alabama supports and appreciates the many public safety officers who work gameday, including UAPD, and City, County and State officials," Bell said in the statement. "UA Athletics and our fans currently pay more in ticket and concession sales taxes than all but one SEC school. Those sales taxes go to support the City, County, and State, and their officers. The City, County, and State also receive significant sales taxes from restaurants, bars, retail outlets and hotels generated by our athletics and campus events.  We believe the success of our athletics programs and growth of our university have had a tremendous positive impact on our community. 

"The University was surprised by the City’s arbitrary service fee. Therefore, the planned new sales at our UA venues will remain on hold as we review the impact this fee could have on our University, Athletics, and fans." 

Bell's statement mirrors that of Byrne, who said Monday that Alabama will "not be moving forward with alcohol sales at this time." 

GREG BYRNE:Alabama athletics 'not moving forward with alcohol sales' pending review of service fee

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"It is very unfortunate that the city of Tuscaloosa's plan would unreasonably target Alabama Athletics and our fans with a service fee on all tickets where alcohol is sold, even tickets sold to children," Byrne said in his statement. 

Alcohol sales were on track to begin at Coleman Coliseum this season after the City Council approved a liquor license for Levy Premium Foodservice LP, Alabama's concessionaire, earlier in February. 

Mayor Walt Maddox has also spoken publicly on the City's behalf on the service fee, saying during a segment on Tide 100.9 that city officials began examining the current ticket fee structure during the application process by Levy to sell alcohol at Coleman Coliseum. 

“During the course of the application for Coleman, it was disclosed that they were going to be doing the same for Bryant-Denny Stadium,” Maddox told hosts Jay Barker and Lars Anderson. “Certainly, that sets up a whole other dynamic when you basically put an entire city within three city blocks.”

Chief Financial Officer Carly Standridge said the legislation is a service fee for public safety and that all revenue will go to those operations. 

When it comes to games, uniformed officers from the Tuscaloosa Police Department are on scene on Paul W. Bryant Drive and University Boulevard hours before and after basketball games and gymnastics meets at Coleman Coliseum to direct traffic. At kickoff for football games, about two-thirds of the department’s 275 or so sworn officers are used to direct traffic and maintain public civility.

The fire department's regular Alabama football game day staffing consists of 36 special event overtime personnel, per Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue Chief Randy Smith. 

Maddox said efforts have been made in the past to get some kind of financial assistance from UA. No consensus has been reached, though. 

"The city has made requests over the years, especially after the increased demands for security in the post-9/11 world," Maddox said in a statement to The Tuscaloosa News. "Although we have never been able to achieve a formal agreement, we have been able to secure in-kind services, such as use of UA athletic facilities for conferences and events.

"In addition, UA has invested considerable funding into the city’s infrastructure as a trade-off for our public safety services."

The Tuscaloosa News' Jason Morton contributed to this report.