Saturdays in the fall in Iowa City have just gotten a little less entertaining. No, no one from The Iowa two deep has been hurt. . . yet. The powers that be have decided to restructure game day rules in the city for the best interests of the people and by doing are removing a charitable organization.
The Magic Bus, which for years was located at 817 Melrose Avenue, just outside Kinnick Stadium featured game day entertainment for tailgaters willing to make a donation for local charity. The bus, run by the Iowa City Ducks Rugby Team, gained notoriety in national publications such as Sports Illustrated for fun and frivolity as well as charitable giving. As much as $30,000 annually was donated by the team per reports to local charities. The team had lost their lease after 2009 when the property was sold and last year the bus was a vagabond, hopping around different sites.
A new ordinance in Iowa City prohibiting game day beer sales within 2 blocks of Kinnick has quashed the bus and put the brakes on 2011 activities. The new ordinance provides for vendors to pay $75 for a permit which still is a bargain with crowds that exceed over 100,000 traipsing through the area. At the heart of this matter is a concern for binge drinking and underage drinking, which is understandable. I certainly hope though that the city council is truly concerned for this and doesn’t have ulterior motives such as alcohol sales in Kinnick.
Currently, alcohol can be purchased only in the stadium luxury suites. There is talk though that universities would be able to open up concessions to the masses within their stadium and permit beer. This brings up an interesting point: is Iowa City wanting to control drinking in the streets as a public service or are they wanting to make more money? Tailgating is a tradition followed passionately in Johnson County. Slowly over the years developments have restricted it. Riverside has changed. Olive Ct. is no more. By structuring more permits the city is affecting positively the drinking on Saturdays outside.
So now as we remember the Magic Bus, the very driver for scores of people to enjoy their pre and post game, who will replace their charitable giving? If the stadium does allow beer in the future to all levels they stand to make a large profit. Will they give back locally? If a 16 ounce beer sells for $6 and at least 120 are in a keg, each keg should gross $720. If one in three fans have one beer during the game that is approximately 24,000 beers or 200 kegs or $144,000 gross. Take that times seven home games and the gross jumps just over one million dollars for a season. Ten percent back to local charities I think is not too much to ask for. $100,000 can go a long way. If the city is going to take away from charities, they can mandate new ways to give back.
Maybe the magic is gone outside the stadium this season, but with a little ingenuity maybe the city can give back to whom they have really taken away from.