New policy allowing alcohol at Boise State tailgating starts smoothly

BSU fans applaud new rules for drinking on game days as police focus on education

jsowell@idahostatesman.comSeptember 8, 2013 

Natalie McAffee and Kim Skene checked their cell phones and then looked at them again Saturday, waiting in anticipation for 10 a.m. to arrive.

Underneath an orange Boise State canopy on the east side of Julia Davis Park, the Boise residents lifted their red plastic Solo cups filled with beer as Natalie's dad, Martin Rodriguez, took photos of the two.

"They're all happy now," Rodriguez said, smiling.

They were part of a group of thousands of Boise State football fans who welcomed new regulations governing alcohol use at tailgate parties before home games. Under the one-year trial "10 to 10 Zone" program, adults 21 and older can consume alcoholic beverages in areas north and south of Bronco Stadium from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on game days.

Boise State opened its home season Saturday with a 63-14 victory over the University of Tennessee at Martin.

NEW RULES

Before this season, only tailgaters in the Bronco Stadium parking lot were allowed to drink alcohol, although there was never an exemption from city open container laws to legally allow it.

Police officers previously allowed drinking as long as people were of legal age and acted responsibly.

Rodriguez and his group - which included McAffee's husband, Jayme, and Rodriguez's granddaughter, Mia Rodriguez, 2 - have set up their canopy on the grass in Julia Davis for several years. Until Saturday, they could not legally drink at that spot.

The atmosphere was more relaxed, Rodriguez said, because the patrol and bicycle officers no longer had to focus on alcohol violators. They could concentrate on saying hello and looking for partiers who may have had too much to drink or were causing problems.

Rodriguez waved as Boise police Lt. Alan Cavener drove through the park. Cavener stuck his hand out the window of his patrol car and waved back.

"There's a lot of happy people here," Cavener said. "The new program has worked out perfectly."

Cavener said he was surprised how many people were aware of the new regulations and the physical boundaries where drinking was allowed.

"They seemed to understand no alcohol at the zoo, no alcohol at Art in the Park. I've been very pleased," he said.

FIRST ROUND OF DRINKING

Many people who came to relax, eat food from the grill and have a drink before heading to the game said they thought the one-year trial program would prove successful.

"I think it's a good idea if adults want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage," Middleton resident Sean Billett said.

Billett was accompanied by his wife, Angie, and the couple's children, Lauren and Carson, students at Middleton Middle School. They were joined by four other families from Sage Run Lane in Middleton who have tailgated together for a number of years in Julia Davis.

Julie Kyzer, another member of the group, said alcohol has never been an issue in the portion of the park they frequent and she didn't expect that to change with its inclusion in the 10 to 10 Zone.

"We've never seen it get out of hand," Kyzer said.

Farther east, Boise resident Rick Bengston had four stacks of red Solo cups next to a portable table. He said he had looked forward to the relaxed rules.

"I think it's great as long as people don't abuse the regulations," Bengston said.

He said he also hoped people would pick up their trash and throw it away before they left.

"You want to leave it better than you found it," he said.

Meridian resident Phil Walker, part of a group of regulars who sit under a canopy watching sports on a TV before the game, said the park provides a family-friendly atmosphere that is less crowded and less hectic than the crowded parking lot next to the stadium.

He said he welcomed being able to have a drink there.

"It makes it easier. You don't have to hide it or go to the parking lot," he said.

EDUCATING THE PUBLIC

Lynn Hightower, spokeswoman for the Boise Police Department, said the first day of the 10 to 10 Zone went smoothly throughout the areas surrounding the stadium, which drew a crowd of 33,293.

"So far, so good," she said, as fans started heading toward the stadium before the 1 p.m. kickoff. "It's very encouraging.''

She said officers were more interested in educating fans about the new rules than in writing citations for violations. She said she wouldn't know until Monday how many citations were issued or if there were any problems.

Many people questioned why alcohol had to be in an opaque cup rather than in the container it came in, she said.

"It's not about advertising beer or a particular brand," Hightower said.

Cavener said the most popular question for the folks he saw in Julia Davis had nothing to do with the alcohol rules.

"They wanted to know where they could park," he said, laughing.

Boise State's next home game is Friday against Air Force. Kickoff time is 6 p.m.

John Sowell: 377-6423,Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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