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State Legislature Considering Bill to Allow Beer & Wine Sales at SoccerPlex

The Maryland State General Assembly is considering a bill that would allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at the stadium at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown.

The bill, House Bill 1076 which will have a hearing on Friday, April 1 and would create a Sports Stadium License for the sale of beer and wine at sporting events and concerts the Plex, and allow spectators to enjoy their beverages in their seats. While there is a “Beer Garden” at the stadium for Washington Spirit soccer games, spectators must remain in the Beer Garden area while drinking.

House Bill 1076 was introduced in February by Delegate Charles Barkley, with the support of the Montgomery County delegation. It had its first reading back in February and was passed 138-0, with three absentees, at its third reading on the House Floor on March 11. The Bill had its first reading in the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 14.

“We have sold beer in the Beer Garden at the stadium field for five or six years,” explained Maryland SoccerPlex Executive Director Trish Heffelfinger. “At first during Washington Freedom matches and now with the Washington Spirit. The enabling legislation would allow patrons to purchase a beer and then return to their seat with it and watch the match with their friends and family. The beer garden is a great social environment with an excellent view of the match. However if you are a parent and want to have a beer during the game, you have to leave your children in the stands and go to another location.”

Heffelfinger said that the first request to sell beer and wine at games came from the Washington Freedom years ago when that team played their home games at the SoccerPlex. And recently, the Washington Spirit has also inquired about selling alcohol at games.

“Both teams were hearing from their customers who purchased tickets for seats but if they wanted to have a beer they had to leave those seats,” said Heffelfinger. “There is an expectation at a professional sports event that you can do that. The beer garden was a good alternative, but it didn’t resolve the concern.”

The Bill calls for a $2,000 annual fee for the liquor license and requires that all alcohol served at the location be purchased from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control. The Bill also allows for the sale of beer and wine at music concerts, which indicates that the SoccerPlex is considering holding other types of events at the venue in the future.

“Our Maureen Hendricks Field is the only stadium of its kind in Montgomery County that could hold an outdoor concert,” said Heffelfinger. “We actually looked into this years ago, but we were concerned about the impact on our field. The technology for covering fields and recovering fields has improved greatly over time. We are in the very early stages of exploring the potential for a concert again.”

“We think it would be great to have another signature event for the County. One recurring theme at Germantown Alliance meetings is that we need more events that bring the community together. Right now we have Germantown Glory on July 4, and we are hoping to grow OktoberPlex next year. Music always brings people together so a concert could be a great community event. We have not determined the type of music, but we would like it to be diverse both multi-generational and multi- cultural to reflect Germantown and Montgomery County. I have to stress we are still in the infant stages of this idea, and we may find that it’s not feasible.”

If enacted the bill would take effect July 1, 2016. Beer and wine sales might be available for the second half of the Washington Spirit NWSL season which is set to begin April 16.