Measure to allow Civic Center alcohol sales moving in assembly

For decades, alcoholic beverages have been banned at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, but lifting that ban could greatly boost revenue.

That’s the goal of SB1140 and HB1521, which was scheduled for 1 p.m. hearing in Annapolis on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Del. Jim Mathias and Del. Addie Eckardt, has already passed the State Senate. If it passes the House and the entire assembly, it would mean beer, wine and liquor could be sold at Civic Center events.

The restriction dates back to S. Franklyn Woodcock, who donated land where the Civic Center was built and stipulated no alcoholic beverages could be dispensed.

But the land was for a ball field, not a popular county venue for concerts and sporting events, County Executive Bob Culver said. In today’s culture, major entertainers and sports teams – including hockey — refuse to contract where alcohol isn’t allowed, and that is causing considerable revenue loss, Culver said.

“It was about 10 years ago that a hockey team approached the Civic Center, because we didn’t have hockey. We couldn’t get a hockey team without the sale of alcohol. A lot of big concerts won’t come. People want to have a beer when they go to a concert. Studies have been done that have shown the extra income we could bring in for the Civic Center, if we could sell alcohol,” he said.

Mathias said when Culver asked him to sponsor the bill, “I asked him if all legal bases were intact, he said yes.”

“I agree with him in regard to attraction of events, in regard to revenue, in regard to how competitive the market is today. You just can’t do it on the box office. You need other revenue streams to be competitive and give people what they want. I have every confidence the sale of alcohol will be handled responsibly,” Mathias said.

He stressed the bill doesn’t immediately allow alcohol to be served. It creates the opportunity for Civic Center officials to apply for a liquor license. There would have to be a public hearing first, he said.

Culver said the prohibition hasn’t been consistently honored anyhow.

“It’s always been violated – since the Jaycees had alcohol there for New Year’s Eve, bring your own bottle. The covenant from Mr. Woodcock said that it was not to be dispensed or sold, but when you have a wedding reception there, you dispense it. When you bring your own bottle, that’s just as much in violation as if we sold it there,” Culver said.

“We had this question when the Shorebird stadium was built and that’s proven to never cause a problem yet,” he said.

Alcohol wouldn’t be sold at events geared toward children, he said. At other events, there would be a no-alcohol area in the stands for those who don’t want to drink or be around those who do.

To honor Woodcock, Culver said he’d like to see a ball park named for him.

Most family members who survive Woodcock have told Culver they wouldn’t mind if alcohol was sold at the Civic Center, he said. “I don’t want to not honor his legacy and want he wanted for baseball and youth but times change,” Culver said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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