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Aud Expands Beer Service, But Not To Seats

Story Written By The Record.

 

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Tuesday August 13, 2002rSTACEY ASH – RECORD STAFF

 

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KITCHENER — It will be a little easier to buy beer at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this year, but Kitchener Rangers fans should not expect to take a cold one back to their seats just yet. rYesterday Kitchener councillors voted to expand beer service at the arena beyond the lounge to the concourse area, a new restaurant and luxury suites currently under construction.

 

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But management of the city’s OHL team quashed plans to bring beer to the stadium seats.

 

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Rangers chief operating officer Steve Bienkowski, said beer service in the stands was discussed when other Ontario Hockey League clubs began to look at the issue three years ago.

 

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Most OHL clubs, including Guelph, London, Sarnia and Mississauga, do allow beer sales either in the seating or the concourse area.

 

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Bienkowski said the Rangers hockey club wants to see how things work with expanded service in the concourse area before considering letting fans drink beer in their seats.

 

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For now, he said, the issue is not up for discussion.

 

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Auditorium manager Kim Kugler said city staff have been monitoring public opinion on the issue for several years, and support for expanded bar service is growing.

 

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Because the Rangers are the Auditorium’s primary tenant, enterprise director Keith Baulk said it is unlikely the city will change the rules without support from the team.

 

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With the plan approved by councillors last night, beer will be accessible, Bienkowski said, but not directly in the faces of fans who would rather enjoy hockey games without alcohol.

 

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“At the end of the day I guess we’re not going to please anyone with that recommendation, but I guess we’re sitting on the fence as well as we can,” Bienkowski said.

 

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Last year, with beer sales limited to the lounge, the team was able to bring in about 5,000 fans for each home game. <

 

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Beer will play a prominent role in funding the newly renovated auditorium, however.

 

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The ink is still drying on a new contract with Molson brewery, which makes the company the exclusive provider of draft beer at the stadium. Provincial regulation require about 15 per cent of bottled beer come from other suppliers, so the contract is not totally exclusive.

 

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In exchange, Molson will spend about $65,000 per year for the next three years to buy advertising at the Auditorium, at area golf courses and on the Ottawa Street sign outside the arena.

 

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The company also agreed to rent a corporate box for at least five Ranger Games each year and spend $5,000 annually in green fees at city-run courses.

 

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Similar, but smaller deals, were reached with Kitchener Bottling Ltd. and Schneiders.

 

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“This is the first time, at least to my knowledge that we’ve ventured down this path,” Baulk said.

 

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“Previously, we have gone for a tender call and gone for the low bid, but in the process, I think we have left some advertising dollars on the table.”

 

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