More Schools Embrace Alcohol Sales To Boost Attendance And Revenue

May 19th, 2016 | by Javier Morales
More Schools Embrace Alcohol Sales To Boost Attendance And Revenue
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Penn State

This is certainly not your dad’s NCAA, which is no longer fearful of guilt by association, especially with revenue on the mind.

The PAC-12 men’s basketball tournament was staged since 2012 inside of a Las Vegas casino with bars, slot machines and craps tables a few feet away from the arena’s entrance. Alcohol was sold at the MGM Grand Garden Arena while the games took place. The sportsbook, a short walk away, had the games on the board.

The tournament this season was sold out before the event started, something that was never done before. Although Arizona and Utah fans travel well, the basketball played in the arena was not the only reason why fans from all locales came in droves to the MGM Grand.

Let’s be honest: The popularity of the event has much to do with the opportunity to take in the Las Vegas lifestyle, which includes the chance to imbibe in a favorite alcoholic beverage at the arena. The tournament will move next season to the new 18,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, which is adjacent to the MGM Grand, New York New York, Excalibur and Luxor. The move was made to allow more fans to attend (the Garden Arena seats about 12,000).

Athletic administrators are increasingly taking note of how allowing alcoholic consumption at games equates to higher attendance rates which draws additional revenue. Luring large crowds is no longer only based on the quality of competition. Other influences, such as beer sales, help, especially if the home team is in need of a boost.

Much like a minor-league baseball team with creative marketing ideas – like $1 beer night – college athletics is becoming more diverse in its approach to attract fans and more revenue.

Alcohol Sales

Penn State follows what the SEC allows of its schools – the ability to sell alcohol in premium seating areas (suites, club seats and reception areas) – at Beaver Stadium as well as the Bryce Jordan Center for basketball games and other facilities.

Unlike Penn State’s policy, Maryland and Minnesota are Big Ten programs that allow alcohol sales to the general public in addition to the premium seating areas. Five other Power 5 schools provide alcohol to all fans – Texas, West Virginia, Syracuse, Miami and Louisville. According to Vinepair.com, 34 schools overall allow beer and alcohol sales to the general public.

The reason behind Penn State’s move to allow alcohol sales, especially at Beaver Stadium, is a money-making venture that goes beyond attendance at football games. The Nittany Lions have long attracted sellouts without beer on the drink menu.

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour envisions Beaver Stadium hosting as many as three non-football events as soon as next year. These events include NHL’s Mid-Winter Classic or Stadium Series, prominent concerts and international soccer matches.

“The idea behind having additional events at Beaver Stadium is around getting the most out of a tremendous asset, a tremendous campus asset,” Barbour told reporters. “Why should it be used only seven times a year?”

These non-football events could each generate $1 million to $2 million in total revenue, which includes the ever-important alcohol sales. Barbour emphasized that the reason for allowing alcohol to be sold was more about fan and spectator expectations, an obvious necessity for drawing the crowds.


Also in the news recently was the South Dakota Board of Regents giving preliminary approval for the sale of beer and wine at special events, including athletic contests, hosted at South Dakota’s public universities. The board allowed the sale of alcohol for only spectators in premium seating, such as suites, but the decision follows the obvious trend of public officials developing an accepting behavior for alcohol sales at college events.

The argument against alcohol sales at sporting events, especially with rowdy college-age kids, is the threat of unruly behavior. While that is an understandable concern, the advantages of drawing larger crowds and more revenue because of alcohol sales, outweighs the disadvantage of a handful of fans acting up.  

Many of the college facilities that allow alcohol consumption are required to have additional security, following a guideline set forth by board of regents to allow the sales to take place. The South Dakota board of regents, for example, requires school presidents to have a detailed security plan with the enforcement of the policies reported to the board on a regular basis for review.

As we have seen with the growth of the PAC-12 tournament in Las Vegas and Penn State’s potentially trend-setting decision to attract additional dollars, it is obvious that alcohol sales at college sporting events will increasingly become a thing of the future. With the schools drawing additional revenue because of alcohol sales, the trend will improve the quality of education and athletic facilities and positively impact the way of life for the student-athletes with more resources and perks (enhanced weight rooms, food halls, living quarters, etc.).

The sale of alcohol at college sporting events is business smart. If you sell it, they will come.

About Javier Morales
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.

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