Iowa Football

Iowa AD Gary Barta moves from 'no' to 'if' on alcohol sales in Kinnick Stadium

The Big Ten is up to something along the lines of football scheduling

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz  talks with Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta and Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez  before a 2013 game at Kinnick Stadium. (The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz talks with Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta and Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez before a 2013 game at Kinnick Stadium. (The Gazette)

CHICAGO — More schools are getting alcohol into their stadiums. Last week, Oklahoma State waved it in.

In 2016, Colorado State partnered with Colorado’s New Belgium brewery for a party deck in the north end zone of its $220 million stadium that opened last season. This was a deal the school helped make happen.

This is the age of fan experience. If alcohol sales is what the people want, in general seating areas in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is at least going to listen.

“This is something 10 years ago would be considered off the table completely,” Barta said from Big Ten media days on Tuesday. “Again, fan experience. What’s going to give our fans the best experience?”

In April, Barta said he’d never resort to alcohol sales to boost revenue. He said that again Tuesday and he also said alcohol sales aren’t coming to Kinnick this year and there are no plans and no discussions.

“If the country continues to see schools add the sales of alcohol, we won’t be the first and probably won’t be the last to do it,” Barta said. “This isn’t breaking news. We don’t have plans to do it.”

But ...

“If we do it at some point, it’s primarily going to be motivated by fan experience and not some sort of ability to make more money,” Barta said. “We would see an uptick in resources and revenue, but if we ever do it, it won’t be for that reason, it would be because the fan experience is demanding and it’s happening in other college stadiums around the country.”

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Now, Barta prefaced his comments by saying Kinnick and the tailgate atmosphere around it has found some chill in recent years. It’s not the Alcohol Olympics it once was.

“The environment in and around Kinnick Stadium related to the use of alcohol is better today than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” Barta said. “We have fewer arrests, we have fewer issues in the stadium. We’re kicking fewer people out. That’s a starting point, that’s awesome.”

So, Iowa is closer to $2 cans of Hamm’s in ice tubs than the Toppling Goliath party deck, but Barta has gone from a hard no on this to if and maybe when.

— You’ve been warned, the north end zone renovation will have seats and that’s really about it this year. Concessions and toilets will not be available there this season.

More leg room, more seats and more toilets and concessions are coming in 2019, when the project will be complete.

“In year 1, we’re asking for some patience,” Barta said. “The seats will be in, you’ll be able to sit and watch the game.”

Barta added that there are only a few club seats left and the Iron Man boxes are “long sold out.”

“In year 1, patience is going to be a virtue,” Barta said. “Restrooms and concessions will be temporary, but I’m excited. The sound is going to be louder. It’s going to feel more closed in.”

— Kinnick’s capacity has dropped from 70,585 to 69,250 this year.

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People get twisted about Iowa dropping below 70,000. The north end zone renovation was motivated by lack of space. This was the logical progression.

“At the end of the day, fan experience was more important, so having to go down a little bit was worth it,” Barta said. “We’ll still be able to remain in the top 25 in attendance and that was important to me.”

Barta did say that if there’s an increased demand, stadium architects have told him there are seating possibilities in the corners of the south end zone.

— The new tax code that disallows athletics donations for tax breaks has started to set in throughout the country.

Barta said, for Iowa, “the numbers still look great” and Kinnick ticket sales for 2019 are up over 2018.

“Right now, fans are trying to make the adjustment, we’re trying to make the adjustment,” Barta said. “In the short run, fortunately, our fan base is all-in.”

— The Big Ten will have a scheduling announcement at some point. After shifting to geographical divisions in the last few years, the league will turn an eye toward balance and competitiveness.

Barta wasn’t going to be the one to break the news. It sounds like it’s going to be more random and will try to avoid October-Novembers like Iowa’s this year, with back-to-back road games followed by a home game and then another back-to-back road trip.

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“How do we move in terms of West vs. East and crossover games,” Barta said. “We’re close to an announcement.”

Barta is good with West and East. In the end, that’s almost a weekly border war and Barta likes that for Iowa.

“I like playing all of our border schools,” Barta said. “I think it creates more energy and excitement. I like that for our fans.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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