UNI Athletics announces alcohol sales

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UNI Athletics announces alcohol sales

ELIZABETH KELSEY, News Editor

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At the UNI football home opener against Southern Utah on Saturday, fans were able to enjoy not only a UNI victory, but a beer along with it.

In a new policy announced last Tuesday, UNI is now selling alcohol at home football and men’s basketball games.

“We’re always looking for ways to add enhancements to the experience for our fans,” said UNI athletic director David Harris. “We’re hoping that this is something that fans who come on a regular basis will appreciate, [as well as] fans who maybe haven’t been coming as regularly… you never know what enhancement might appeal to what customer. We continue to try to…tap into the interests of a variety of people all with the thought of trying to help make sure that we can have great crowds here for all of our events.”

That desire to appeal to fans old and new seemed to be working on Saturday, when sales went into effect.

Augusta Pike, a resident of Cedar Falls who had never before attended a UNI football game, said she came to the game because alcohol was offered.

“I need alcohol to enjoy the game,” she said.

Sam Weatherman, a senior supply chain management major, said he thought it was “awesome” when he learned about the new alcohol policy, and stated that it positively affected his decision to come to Saturday’s game. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “I can’t believe they didn’t do it sooner.”

The alcohol sales didn’t have such an impact on other fans. One resident of Waterloo who asked to remain anonymous was “surprised but indifferent” on hearing about the change in policy.

It’s a change that is fast becoming more of an industry standard in college sports, according to Harris.

“In the past five to seven years…more and more across the board, you’re seeing institutions make the decision to do this,” he said. He added that alcohol sales are just one part of an industry trend to create a “greater environment” at games which can compete against the conveniences of televised viewing. 

Harris also noted that the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which includes schools such as Louisiana State University (LSU), Alabama, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M, recently lifted its conference-wide ban on sales of alcohol at sporting events. In the wake of this decision, the number of universities nationwide which sell alcohol—or are at least now considering it—has increased.

Out of the 64 schools mentioned in a June 26, 2019 article from Knox News, 26 offer alcohol to all of-age patrons, while 18 offer alcohol in premium or club seating areas, which was UNI’s previous policy. 20 schools prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol altogether.

Two of those schools are Iowa’s other two state schools: Iowa State and University of Iowa. In a Des Moines Register article published April 19, 2018, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard was quoted as saying, “Our position has not changed. We are not interested in changing our current position on alcohol sales during home athletic events.” And in another piece from the Register on July 19, 2019, University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said that alcohol would not be available for the 2019-2020 season, although “that day is drawing inevitably nearer.”

For now, UNI remains the only public university in the state to offer alcoholic beverages at sporting events. To purchase any of the available domestic and craft beers, customers must display a valid ID to obtain a wristband at one of the four stations around the concourse. The wristband allows the wearer to purchase no more than two drinks at one time, although Harris stated that patrons can return unlimited times.

In both the UNI-Dome and McLeod Center, alcohol is prohibited in the student section and TC’s Kids Zone.

At Saturday’s home football game, sales went smoothly, according to both fans and employees. Pike described the process as “fast,” and Weatherman said that concessions workers made it “super easy.”

“It’s been very well received,” said concessions worker Ranae Puls. “If we do it how we’re supposed to do it, check IDs and make sure people don’t get out of control, then I don’t see that there should be an issue.”

As of now, alcohol will only be available at football and men’s basketball games, a decision that Harris said was based on industry standards as well as the level of interest to make alcohol sales financially responsible for the university.

“[Football and men’s basketball] is where you tend to have your biggest crowd and your biggest opportunity to serve the public and where, quite frankly, we have gotten the most interest in the past from guests,” he said. “That’s not to say that we won’t look at adding it to other sports here in the future. This is year one for us. I could certainly see that maybe there would be a time that we will be doing it for all of our ticketed sports. We are certainly open to having the conversation, but we had to start somewhere, and we wanted to start here with these sports because this is where we typically get our biggest crowds.”

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