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UB to allow beer sales at basketball and football games

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Something new is on tap at University at Buffalo basketball and football games.

UB announced Friday that it will begin selling beer at specific sporting events, starting with the men’s basketball game at 2 p.m. Saturday against Marist at Alumni Arena. UB will sell beer at men's and women's basketball games and at football games next fall at UB Stadium as part of a pilot program.

“This is an opportunity to enhance the fan experience,” UB athletic director Mark Alnutt said Friday at halftime of UB's football game against Bowling Green. “We have a great environment, a great experience, and for some folks, that’s an additional amenity that people are going to try to take advantage of.

“Anything we can do to enhance the experience. We’ll continue to tout the family experience, but by serving beer, we’re not going to taint the atmosphere we already have.”

Alnutt said UB learned Wednesday of the state’s approval for a liquor license, a process that began earlier this year and involved the athletic department and Campus Dining and Shops, the division responsible for food services.

UB becomes the seventh school in the Mid-American Conference to sell beer. Entering the season, 52 of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision programs allowed beer sales at on-campus or off-campus venues, according to reporting by the Des Moines Register.

“When the appropriate steps are in place, it can be done, and it can be done successfully,” Alnutt said, noting athletic venues he has recently visited at West Virginia University and at the University of Oregon that sell beer. “It’s a pilot program. Let’s see how this goes through basketball. Let’s see how it goes through the next football season and we can re-evaluate for future seasons.”

The school announced an agreement with Try-It Distributing to sell a variety of beers at kiosks at Alumni Arena. Alnutt said UB will carry Anheuser-Busch products, with Bud Light and craft beers on tap.

Beer sales at college campus stadiums and arenas typically begin at $7. Revenues from alcohol sales have not yet been designated for certain programs at UB.

“Concessions revenues do enhance things, but it depends on crowds, sales and everything else,” Alnutt said. “Revenues will go to our operating budget, but by the same token, there’s going to be a need for additional staffing, to be able to pour the beer, to check the IDs. There will be additional educational methods and messages that are out there, too, with this. We’re going to try to promote drinking responsibly.

“Is this a windfall for athletics? Not necessarily. It helps enhance the revenue, but the main thing is being able to give people that option. If they want to enjoy and partake in this, they have the opportunity to do this.”

Alnutt said beer sales at football games will be confined to the west side of UB Stadium, the opposite side of the student section.

Alnutt said UB’s athletic department and its student affairs department took feedback from its fans, and researched what other schools in the Mid-American Conference are doing as far as selling alcohol at sporting events.

Last spring, the NCAA Division I Council announced it had eliminated restrictions on alcohol sales at all Division I championship events in the aftermath of a two-year pilot program that saw alcohol sales at the College World Series, the FBS championship game and championships in sports such as wrestling, lacrosse and ice hockey.

“A lot of this was, let’s follow suit with our peers, and then see if there’s any concerns they might have,” Alnutt said. “That process started before I got here, under Allen (Green, former UB athletic director) leadership, and the feedback was positive.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Alcoholics Anonymous did not respond to emails from The Buffalo News on Friday, but in 2016, MADD president Colleen Sheehey-Church told CBS Sports that the organization was opposed to selling alcohol at college sporting events.

"We do have a reaction," Sheehey-Church said. "It's part of our mission statement. We want to prevent underage drinking. MADD discourages the service of alcohol at a college game-day event.

"We absolutely know the minimum drinking age is 21 and most of the people there are going to be under 21."

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