There's Been an 'Exponential Rise' in College Football Stadiums Selling Alcohol

80% of major stadiums now sell beer, wine on game days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 6, 2023 3:14 PM CST
80% of Major College Football Stadiums Now Sell Alcohol on Game Day
Tailgaters play cornhole outside Spartan Stadium before the Michigan-Michigan State football game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich.   (AP Photo/Mike Householder)

College football tailgates are as synonymous with the game as blocking and tackling. Burgers, brats, and beer go along with the cornhole and camaraderie for tens of thousands of people every Saturday, a beloved tradition seen outside stadiums big and small. "My dad almost gets more excited for football season than I do because of the tailgating and stuff like that," sais JJ McCarthy , the star quarterback for No. 2 Michigan. For many years, the booze flowed only outside of stadiums. Not anymore: Selling beer and wine inside college football stadiums has become the norm over the past decade, a way for schools to bring in more revenue and attract fans who might otherwise be inclined to stay home.

According to a survey by the AP of Power Five conference schools and Notre Dame, 55 of 69 of them—80%—now sell alcohol in the public areas of their stadiums on game days. Of the remaining schools, some sell alcoholic drinks in non-public areas of the venue such as suites; others do not sell booze at all. The University of Wisconsin is one of the institutions that do not sell alcohol to the general public at football games, but it will begin selling booze at basketball and hockey games this season.

Alcohol has been sold in football stadiums in some places for years, but the number of schools willing to do it picked up dramatically in the late 2010s. Adam Barry, a health behavior social scientist at Texas A&M, says after the Southeastern Conference allowed schools to sell alcohol in 2019, booze started to flow in stadiums from coast to coast. Since the SEC made that decision, other Power Five conferences followed suit, and we've seen an exponential rise," Barry says.

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The University of North Carolina is in its fifth season of selling Twisted Tea, Modelo, White Claw, and other booze. Alcohol has helped UNC's bottom line with about $4 million in sales. After having $320,213 in net sales during the 2019-20 athletic year, the school quadrupled that number last year and will see an increase again after this season. "Athletic departments typically are not profitable," Barry says. "So, selling alcohol has simply become a new revenue stream." Fans say they still often prefer tailgating because of the atmosphere—and the prices—but they will now also buy a drink or two when they're in the stadium.

(More college football stories.)

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