116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — In heaven there is no beer. But, throughout Kinnick and Carver-Hawkeye Arena, now there will be.
A decade after University of Iowa Athletics launched a “Think Before They Drink” campaign aimed at curbing football-related binging — but now facing massive losses from COVID — the department on Thursday announced its expanding alcohol sales at athletic events, including football, basketball, baseball, softball and wrestling.
Starting this fall — expecting full capacity at Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena after no fans were allowed last season — UI Athletics will embark on a pilot program to up wine and beer sales throughout Kinnick, Carver, Duane Banks Field, which hosts Hawkeye baseball, and Bob Pearl Field, home to Hawkeye softball, according to UI Athletics.
Alcohol also will sell at Xtream Arena in Coralville, where the UI volleyball squad starts playing next season.
Although officials don’t yet know specifically how many sites within each venue will sell alcohol, officials have said none will be sold near student sections.
And fans won’t be allowed to bring in their own alcohol from outside.
The University of Northern Iowa already sells alcohol in its UNI-Dome, except for sites near the student section.
Iowa State University doesn’t sell alcohol widely in its venues, and officials told The Gazette they don’t have immediate plans to change that.
“We have not had any substantive talks — administratively in athletics — on the topic,” said Senior Associate Athletics Director Steve Malchow. “We do continue to monitor the issue nationally, in the Big 12 and locally. Our plan is to continue offering alcohol for purchase in our premium seating areas at Jack Trice Stadium, but no changes are on the immediate horizon.”
Kinnick Stadium — with a capacity of 69,250 — previously only sold beer to those in luxury suites or indoor and outdoor club seating. But administrators for years hinted the day of expanded sales would come and reported Thursday that by doing so in the 2021-22 season, Iowa will join seven other Big Ten schools currently selling beer and wine in public areas at home football games: Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State and Rutgers.
“Approximately half of the schools from the Power Five conferences will sell beer and/or wine at their home football games this fall,” according to a UI news release in which UI athletics director Gary Barta said his staff has been “working with our campus partners on this for some time now and we are committed to maintaining a safe and enjoyable game day environment.
“While there is an opportunity for increased revenue, this decision was based on enhancing the fan experience and providing an additional amenity to our fans,” Barta said. “At the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year, we will work with our campus partners to review this pilot program.”
Acknowledging risks that come with expanding beer and wine access to the game-going public, the department has commit 30 percent of its net alcohol sales to “research-based initiatives developed and supported by the UI Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee, formed in 2009 to decrease high-risk drinking and the related harmful consequences.”
Athletics also will look to shorten the time fans can drink in a stadium-adjacent atmosphere by limiting the open hours of its parking lots — where hoards of fans gather before and after games to tailgate. UI-controlled lots previously open for tailgating at 6 a.m. on game days now will open no sooner than six hours before kickoff — but no earlier than 6 a.m.
Only RVs will be allowed in lots on the eve of game day.
Indicating that change will affect just a slice of tailgaters, UI Athletics reported about 92 percent of vehicles that used UI lots in the 2019 season tailgated within that six-hour window.
Interim UI President John Keller, in a statement, acknowledged “the pregame atmosphere around Kinnick Stadium is a significant part of the fan experience.
“We are adopting policies that encourage Hawkeyes to enjoy game day traditions while reducing underage access to alcohol and the negative impacts of binge drinking.”
UI Athletics still is working out details of where within the venues alcohol will sell, for how much and what varieties, Senior Associate Athletic Director Matt Henderson told The Gazette.
Although UI Athletics doesn’t have any contracts with alcohol vendors for this pilot program specifically, Henderson said, Hawkeye Sports Properties has a “sponsorship with Budweiser/7G Distributing.”
Administrators also haven’t decided whether to up law enforcement in the athletics venues in conjunction with the alcohol-sales expansion.
In Aug. 2010, UI Athletics unveiled a “Think Before You Drink” campaign meant to make “the game-day experience exciting and safe for all fans” by curbing “unsafe behavior linked to excessive drinking.”
Details, mailed to season ticket holders, spelling out stepped up enforcement of several new rules — like limiting alcohol consumption in UI parking lots to just one hour after a game and cutting off all tailgating two hours after the game.
Police also heavily enforced drunk-driving, open container, and public urination rules.
The 2010 release noted, “Consumption of alcohol inside historic Kinnick Stadium is impermissible.”
“If the individual is a UI student, they may be restricted from attending future games,” according to the 2010 release. “For those individuals who are not UI students and are season ticket holders, they will lose their season ticket privileges for at least the remainder of the 2010 season.”
Since forming the UI Alcohol Harm Reduction Advisory Committee more than a decade ago, the percent of undergraduate students reporting high-risk drinking dropped from 70 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2019, according to statistics from the UI Division of Student Life.
The average number of drinks “per occasion” has dropped from 7.4 to 5.2, according to UI statistics. And the percent of students who report drinking on 10 or more days a month fell from 34 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2019.
Goals listed in the university’s fourth iteration of its alcohol harm reduction plan — which officials aims to achieve by 2022 include:
- Increasing the perception UI is dedicated to promoting well-being and safety to prospective students and families;
- Upping the number of students who are “low-risk drinkers”;
- Encouraging more high-risk drinkers to lower their drinking while at UI;
- Fostering a “culture of care, integrity, and compliance”;
- And institutionalizing “commitment to harm reduction.”
In 2019 — Louisiana State University’s debut year selling alcohol in public areas at its football games — the athletics department generated $2.3 million in net revenue from more than 280,000 alcoholic beverages, according to an associate athletics director.
UI Athletics would welcome that kind of revenue after projecting an operating deficit in the tens of millions from COVID cuts, cost, and lost revenue.
Although the original $75 million operating deficit UI Athletics projected for the current budget year shrank with some semblance of a football season, officials still project being tens of millions in the red.
Under that financial pressure, UI Athletics permanently cut three sports and officials have said 2020 losses were so bad they won’t consider bringing them back.
UI Athletics haven’t disclosed how much they expect to make from alcohol sales.
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