Legislation designating public university athletics venues as “sports authorities” for purposes of selling alcohol at special events passed by wide margins on the Senate and House Floors this week. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville), is supported by the University of Tennessee. The main purpose behind the statutory change is to allow alcohol to be sold at non-athletic events (such as concerts) in university sporting venues on campus. The City of Knoxville and Knox County, who also advocated for the measure, estimate that the region is losing over six large-scale concerts annually due to the University’s inability to sell alcohol in its facilities. Passage of the measure will promote tourism and economic development for the Knoxville region, as Knoxville is currently the only one of the four major Tennessee cities that doesn’t allow alcohol sales at its major venues, making it difficult to book many entertainment acts. It also brings to bear significant anticipated revenue for the University of Tennessee.
The legislation also allows all public universities—including UT Martin and UT Chattanooga— more latitude in determining alcohol sales during athletic events, although in the case of UT Knoxville, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) currently bans the sale of alcohol in general admissions areas of SEC athletics events. The bill now heads to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. Upon receipt of his signature, the measure will be effective immediately.