Alcohol sales at university sporting events growing, NC schools could benefit
Posted June 20
Raleigh, N.C. — As players collide and compete on the football field at North Carolina, NC State and Duke, alcohol is being served in select areas.
“We do serve alcohol in premium spaces and we'll continue to do that, but in the general public seating bowl, we have not discussed that and we're not pursuing it right now,” said UNC Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham.
“We have just kind of got into the alcohol availability in the premium section, in the tower at Wallace Wade,” Duke AD Kevin White noted. “Beyond that, we haven't had a whole lot of conversation.”
But don't be surprised if the sale of beer and wine expands to general sections in football and basketball soon.
“We've talked about selling wine and beer for years,” NC State AD Debbie Yow said. “I tend to think at some point in time that will happen. But there are requirements for state schools, a change in state legislation, so we would not go into that alone. We would want to partner with Chapel Hill and with East Carolina and with other schools.”
That change in legislation may not be too far-fetched as the laws surrounding alcohol in North Carolina are already starting to loosen.
A tweak to North Carolina law passed in 2013 allows for in-stands beer sales at professional events that seat more than 3,000 fans. The law previously called for 60,000 seats. And earlier this year, lawmakers offered a bipartisan bill that would allow alcohol sales at 10 a.m. on Sundays, moving it up from the current noon. That has since passed in both the House and Senate
“At some point, we'll do a deep dive and see whether it makes sense to even consider it at a place like Duke,” White said. “I just don't know if we're going to get to that place. I dont' even know at the moment if that's something that we absolutely aspire to. But I can tell you this, we're going to study it.”
It's a process Wake Forest has already gone through.
"We took two or three years looking at it, studying it, looking at what other people have done to determine if it was applicable to Wake Forest or not," said Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman.
Eventually, the vote went to a wide sampling of representatives from across the campus.
“I thought it would be a very controversial topic,” Wellman added. “We had over 50 people on a couple of different boards at that meeting and they voted for it unanimously, which shocked me.”
Wake Forest began serving in restricted areas, but now serves in the open arena. So does Louisville, Syracuse and Miami of the ACC. The ACC football conference championship game began serving beer in 2015 and basketball and baseball championship events followed in 2016.
West Virginia began to sell and serve alcohol at football games in 2011 and basketball games in 2015. Their primary reason was to cut down on binge drinking. Since then, the university has seen a drastic cut in alcohol related altercations.
Colorado State was one of the first to sell beer at football games, having opened it up to the general public more than 30 years ago. A 2016 story by the Coloradoan stated that in a six-game home schedule, the stadium had just four alcohol related incidents.
For the 2017 season, about 40 football stadiums will serve beer in common areas – nearly 1/3 of all FBS schools.
The NCAA does not allow alcohol sales at championships events with the exception of the College World Series and the Women’s College World Series, which began serving in 2016. The NCAA also does not allow alcohol companies to advertise at their events.
Of course, there is money involved. How much revenue can be generated by the sale of alcohol to the general public at games?
“I think our AD brethren would suggest somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 every year,” Yow said.
Other reports put that number much higher.
A CBS.com report in 2016 said that West Virginia made about $600,000 from beer and wine sales that season at football games alone. The same report offered that Texas, whose football stadium seats more than 100,000, made $1.8 million.
At Colorado State’s new on-campus stadium, popular brewery New Belgium will have naming rights to a pavilion in the endzone where fans can watch the game with the brand’s beer. That came with a $4.3 million price tag for New Belgium that went directly to the university.
Colleges and universities are trying to figure out new revenue streams, and the sale of alcohol has been gaining strength. While the practice may not be imminent for North Carolina's public universities, it seems to only be a matter of time.