Eau Claire (WQOW) - UPDATE: Eau Claire City Council members have approved a lease between the City of Eau Claire and the Express baseball team. The new agreement states that a fan deck ticket will no longer come with all-you-can-drink beer. Instead, a ticket will allow for four beers, and customers will be charged for any additional beers after that.
WQOW News 18 has a reporter at tonight's meeting and will have more updates on the proposed budget tonight at 10 p.m.
Since early this year, the Eau Claire Express has been negotiating with the city on renewing the team's 5 year lease at Carson Park. The new agreement has been drawn up to include a limit on an all you can drink option for patrons on the fan deck.
Councilman Dave Duax, for the Eau Claire City Council, said, "What we're talking about is having a policy of responsible drinking in all of our parks.”
A menu of all you can drink beer may be capped for fan deck baseball fans next year in Eau Claire.
Steve Nick, the city attorney for Eau Claire, said, "The Express has used Carson Park, Carson field for the last 10 years as their home field. And, one of the issues under negotiation is continuation of the 'all-you-care-to-drink' specials on the fan deck."
As written, the new lease agreement said that a fan deck ticket will no longer come with all you can drink beer. Instead, there will be a four drink per game limit, and fans would have to pay more for any additional drinks.
Duax said, "The whole fan deck was put in 6 or 7 years ago, which was after the first lease and wasn't before the second lease was renewed. And, we hadn't had any experience with the fan deck. I think having had that experience and unlimited alcohol consumption is not something consistent with what we're doing today. We wanted to enter into that discussion during the lease negotiation this year."
Since 2011, the Eau Claire Police Department said there have been only two incidents on the fan deck that were alcohol related, but it's a number city officials don't want to see increase.
Duax said, "We are trying to promote consistent use within our city parks and promote responsible drinking. So, we're trying to bring this all in line."
Attorney Steve Nick said the city does not benefit financially from beer sales at the ballpark.
Under the new agreement, the team will pay over $18,000 annually to lease space at Carson Park. An additional $10,000 will be put toward a capital project at the park.
Nick said, "We think the express have been good and responsible under their liquor license. So, it's not a liquor license issue at all. It's really a lease issue, and city council has expressed an intent to move away in that kind of approach."
Council members said they will look at upcoming lease agreements with various groups that use both Carson and Phoenix parks to make sure they are in line with this policy.
A public discussion on the lease between the city and the Eau Claire Express will be held Monday at City Hall. A vote will follow at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
WQOW News 18 checked in with other teams in the Northwoods League. Five of the six we spoke with have fan decks that do not have restrictions on how much you can drink. WQOW News 18 reached out to the Eau Claire Express, but they declined to comment. The Northwoods League did not return our call.