Beer here? Perhaps not in bottles
By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
published December 19, 2001
TAMPA -- Thanks to some unsaintly Saints and a bunch of landlubbing Midwesterners, Bucs fans could end up with fewer options to swill at Raymond James Stadium Sunday.
Officials with the Tampa Sports Authority said they are evaluating whether to continue serving beers in plastic bottles, after pro football fans in two cities turned them into vessels of protest Sunday and Monday.
While they were quick to say they didn't think such an ugly incident could happen here, the officials said they are forced to contemplate copycat outbursts.
"We've got some very good fans, no doubt," said Mickey Farrell, director of operations for the sports authority. "This is a continued effort to make sure the players, foes and fans are as safe as possible."
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled to wind down their regular season with three home games, Farrell said a decision could come this week.
Lt. Rod Reder, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and veteran of stadium security duty, said a ban on the plastic bottles might be a good idea and that the National Football League may need to look at the matter at all stadiums.
Reder said he's been amazed at the restraint of Bucs fans during his time on duty at games. They were given free spongy footballs during a recent home game and he fully expected to see them rain from the stands. They didn't, he noted as evidence.
"I've been hit with several things," Reder said, but never with a beer bottle. "Luckily one thing our crowds have always been good about is not doing that. They might fight in the stands. They might drink too much beer. And when they do, they're dealt with."
Just the same, he said a half-full bottle, even a wide-mouthed plastic one, could be dangerous. Unlike a cup, which tends to spray its contents when thrown, beer in a bottle tends to stay there when it is tossed.
"When it's full of liquid, it's a missile," Reder said.
The local evaluation was sparked after fans of the Cleveland Browns pelted the field with plastic bottles and other refuse Sunday after referees made a controversial call. The game was delayed with only seconds remaining, and sports shows repeatedly showed footage of the referees scurrying to safety.
Spectators in New Orleans repeated the display Monday night when another controversial call went against the hometown Saints, until a stadium announcer pleaded, "Please, this is New Orleans and we are sportsmen here."
Plastic 16-ounce bottles came into stadium vogue late in 1999 when the Miller Brewing Co. began marketing the wide-mouth containers. Other brewers followed. But Brian Ford, district manager for Greenwich, Conn.-based Fine Host Corp., which sells food and beverages at Raymond James, said they make up a small percentage of overall beer sales. Plastic water and soda bottles have been sold there since the stadium opened in 1998.
A Miller Lite bottle sells for $5.25 at Raymond James. The bottles are sold only by vendors who walk through the stands. Other concessions only offer draft beer sold in cups.
"Our current policy is that we take the caps off the bottle to limit the distance if the bottle is thrown," Ford said. "At this point in time, we've had no incidents."
Patrick Manteiga, a sports authority board member, said he may raise the issue if management at the stadium doesn't tackle it.
Jim Norman, a Hillsborough County commissioner who also sits on the board, said any ban on bottles may be premature.
"This is not Cleveland," Norman said.
"If we reacted to everything that Cleveland did ...," he said, without finishing the thought.
- Information from Times wires was used in this report.
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