Council expands drinking area around Autzen Stadium


The Eugene City Council voted 6-2 to expand the legal drinking area around Autzen Stadium on days when the University of Oregon football team is playing.

The vote provides private parking lot operators with the same game-day exemption from Eugene's public drinking laws that the city gives the university for its stadium lot. Several of the lots are owned or operated by nonprofit groups, and rely on parking fees for their fundraising and charitable giving.

A council majority said the approach was a practical response to tailgating.

"We are not allowing no-holds barred drinking around Autzen Stadium," Councilman Alan Zelenka said Monday night. "What we are doing is acknowledging that drinking is occurring and we have limited resources to deal with it."

Councilwomen Betty Taylor and Bonny Bettman voted against the expansion. "We are sending the wrong message," Bettman said. "People can watch sports without the expectation of getting intoxicated and getting in their cars and driving home."

The change does not take effect for another 30 days. That means it will still be illegal to drink in the lots around Autzen this Saturday, when Oregon faces the California Golden Bears in a matchup of highly rated teams.

Police Chief Robert Lehner, however, told the council he doesn't have enough officers to prevent tailgaters from drinking.

Councilman George Poling, who represents the Autzen area on the council, said the department would need another 40 officers to enforce the current public drinking law. "We don't have 40 additional officers," he said. "So by passing this ordinance, we will have some way of controlling this" through the parking lot operators.

The council made one change to the ordinance before approving it. Instead of allowing drinking to continue in parking lots for up to two hours after games, the council decided the drinking should cease at game's end.

Information from: The Register-Guard,

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