Alcohol sales put Purdue in line with national trend
Although it wasn’t its intention, Ross-Ade Stadium’s south end zone, where season-ticket-holding fans have been able to buy alcohol for the last two seasons, provided a good test.
And because it proved to be a welcomed upgrade to the fan experience at home football games, Purdue decided to expand alcohol sales to the rest of the stadium. Starting with the Sept. 8 night game vs. Ohio, the home opener, fans will be able to purchase beer and wine through Ross-Ade.
“As the fans have recognized, that’s been a point of emphasis for the whole department, certainly led by our marketing and game-experience folks, trying to make the experience the best possible,” said Tom Schott, Purdue senior associate athletics director, communications. “We feel this is another option that fans, if they want to partake, can. Certainly, we’re not forcing anybody to do so. Fans have lots of choices to make, and we’re one of them, if we can improve their experience by offering them a cold beer or a glass of wine, why not go for it?”
Previously, fans could purchase beer and wine in the south end zone (since 2015) and in the pavilion (since the stadium renovation in 2003). Fans there, because they are likely season-ticket holders, will continue to get benefits; draft beer will be available only in the south end zone and pavilion, with a 20-oz cup priced at $6 for domestic and $7 for craft. In the rest of the stadium, the options are a 16-oz can of domestic for $7 and $8 for craft. Wine is $7 everywhere. Brands have not yet been finalized.
“We’re taking care of those (season-ticket-holding) fans,” Schott said. “And different from years past, if you buy a beer in the south end zone, you’ll be able to take it to the stands, which wasn’t the case before.”
Purdue’s alcohol sales — it will do so not only in Ross-Ade, but for basketball events in Mackey Arena, as well — are part of a growing trend nationally. Per a CBSSports.com report in June 2016, at least 36 schools were set to sell alcohol throughout their stadiums during the ’16 season, including the Big Ten’s Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio State, which had expanded from limited sales the year before.
During the 2015 season, per a survey by PennLive.com, seven Big Ten schools (Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Purdue) offered alcohol in premium seating only, while five (Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern) didn’t allow at all.
In 2016, the NCAA allowed beer sales at the College World Series for softball and baseball, the first time in decades it had been offered at NCAA events. It did so citing “theories” that controlled alcohol sales improves fan behavior.
Schott says Purdue talked to officials at Minnesota, which implemented sales in 2012, and West Virginia (2011) before its decision.
“Just to find out how it went with them and what they did,” he said. “And the underlying theme was that by providing it, you actually improve fan behavior. Not that we’ve really had an issue with fan behavior, but it was nice to hear that.”
Part of that, though, is another new Purdue policy, ending the practice of reentry at Ross-Ade. No longer will fans be able to leave Ross-Ade, at halftime for instance, and return to the stands. There’s been some pushback, Schott says.
“But there was no way to be fair to Levy, who is managing all this from a sales standpoint, to let fans go out and come back in, and then judge whether they’ve served them too much alcohol, or they’ve gone back to their tailgates to get alcohol,” he said. “We just thought, ‘Let’s do it all at once.’ We were one of only two Big Ten schools to still allow reentries, Indiana being the other. We thought the time was right to do it all. A few people have been upset with that, but from a safety standpoint, it’s been the right decision.”
And Purdue hopes to generate revenue. Last season, gross revenue in the south end zone was approximately $100,000 in its seven home games, Schott said, although the athletic department gets only a portion of that from Levy Restaurants, the food and drink distributor.
Texas, whose stadium seats more than 100,000, made $1.8 million in revenue in the 2015 season, per CBSSports.com, while West Virginia (capacity 60,000) came in at about $600,000.
“Obviously attendance will drive a lot of that (revenue),” Schott said. “This was not intended as a money-maker, but we’d be silly not to realize that it has potential to make us some revenue, but (we have) no projection. We think people will enjoy it, but I don’t think you’ll have a huge boon of alcohol being served. Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll know after the first couple games.”
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