Tennessee House-passed bill allowing alcohol sales at UTC's McKenzie, other college sports venues goes to governor

Tennessee House-passed bill allowing alcohol sales at UTC's McKenzie, other college sports venues goes to governor

March 21st, 2019 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

NASHVILLE — The state House on Thursday gave final approval to legislation allowing alcohol sales at most state public college and university sports venues, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's McKenzie Arena.

Representatives voted 70-21 for the measure, which had already passed through the Senate. It now moves on to Gov. Bill Lee for his consideration.

UTC officials say they're interested in the ability to sell alcohol at McKenzie, the Mocs' basketball venue, during entertainment events, including concerts.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said he and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, brought the bill in response to Knoxville officials who believe the change would help UT-Knoxville's Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena lure major entertainment acts in a city that has no other large venues.

Sexton noted the Southeastern Conference athletic association now bars alcohol sales to general admission attendees of football and basketball games. But a number of other college conferences do allow alcohol sales at games.

The bill impacts an estimated 50 public colleges and universities, according to a fiscal note. It's a follow-up to a 2018 law that allowed Middle Tennessee State University to sell beer and wine at specific athletic events, including football and men's and women's basketball games, at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.

That law, as well as the bill given final approval on Thursday, designates the college-owned facilities under an existing "sports venue" provision in state alcohol laws addressing permitted retail sellers.

UTC officials are interested in similar sales at McKenzie Arena, which in the past has hosted concerts including Taylor Swift, Vince Gill and Ludacris, as well as events including WWE professional wrestling and Thunder National's Monster Trucks.

Bill co-sponsors include Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, who voted for the bill. Also voting for the bill were Reps. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah; Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga; Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, and Robin Smith, R-Hixson.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.