Soon soccer fans will be able to enjoy beer and wine at their seats in the stadium at the Maryland SoccerPlex thanks to the Maryland legislature’s passage of House Bill 1076.
The bill was put forth by the Montgomery County Delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates and approved by Governor Larry Hogan on May 19. It calls for the creation of a Montgomery County sports stadium license for the sale of beer and wine on the premises during events held in a stadium which has a seating capacity of 2,000 people.
While the SoccerPlex has been selling beer during Washington Spirit games for a few seasons, those sales are limited to the Beer Garden area, and consumers of alcoholic beverages must remain in the Beer Garden while consuming their drinks.
“We have sold beer in the Beer Garden at the stadium field for five or six years,” said Trish Heffinger, executive director of the Maryland SoccerPlex, “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 both the Spirit and the Washington Freedom requested the ability to sell beer and wine at professional 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. 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 Spirit never pressured us but they did share those concerns with us,” she said.
However, Spirit fans may have to wait a few weeks before they can enjoy a brew while watching Crystal Dunn and company from their seats. The legislation does not go into effect until July 1, 2016, however, as of Thursday, May 26, Montgomery County Parks still approval for patrons to bring their beer back to their seats as soon as the legislation goes into effect, said David Tobin, Manager of Community Partnerships for Montgomery Parks.
The first game in which the new rules will apply is the July 2 Washington Spirit game versus FC Kansas City.
While the ability to take alcoholic beverages out of the Beer Garden is expected to increase revenue at the SoccerPlex, Heffelfinger did not offer any estimates on how much the measure might increase revenue, other than it would be more than with just the Beer Garden alone.
She also expects the Beer Garden to remain a fixture at Spirit games at Maureen Hendrix Field. “It’s a great spot for friends to meet up, watch the match, and socialize,” she said.
Heffelfinger also said that the SoccerPlex is also exploring the possibility of hosting outdoor concerts at the stadium 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 a few 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. Since we don’t know what’s involved, we are trying to become educated. We think it would be great to have another signature event for the County.”
Heffelfinger said that desire to host an annual event that might bring the Germantown community together and promote civic pride is one of the reasons for exploring the possibility of hosting music concerts at the SoccerPlex.
According to Tobin, the SoccerPlex would have to receive special approval to serve beer any events other than Spirit games.
“One recurring theme at Germantown Alliance meetings is that we need more events that bring the community together,” she said. “Right now we have Germantown Glory on July 4th 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.”
Top: The Beer Garden on “Freedom Hill” at the Maryland SoccerPlex packed during a sold-out Washington Spirit game during the 2015 season. Thanks to new legislation signed last week, patrons will be able to bring alcoholic beverages back to their seats in the stadium beginning July 1.
Next: The Maryland SoccerPlex.
Next: Diana Matheson (8) and the Washington Spirit will host FC Kansas City on July 2, it will be the first game at which patrons will be able to leave the Beer Garden with alcoholic beverages.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.