Something new might be coming to McKale Center this year...alcohol.
On Wednesday night, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke was on the radio show Wildcat Country, broadcast on 1580 AM in Phoenix, and broke the news that Arizona is in the process of applying for a license to sell alcohol during events at McKale Center.
.@Dave_Heeke: UA in the process of applying for a license with the City of Tucson to sell alcohol during games at McKale Center this season.— Wildcat Country (@CatCountry1580) October 19, 2017
“Just like any other entity that wants to serve alcohol, you need to apply and receive the required licensing for that,” Heeke told Jeff Dean when asked about potential alcohol sales. “We’ve been inquiring about this. We want to move in that direction; to provide our fans with amenities, one of those being the choice of beverages that you like at games.”
“We want to do it the right way,” continued Heeke. “We want to do it in a first class manner and provide options for everyone in our environment. But we think that’s an amenity going forward that is very important as we continue to build amenities in our football stadium especially.”
While he spoke about football first, it seems most likely that alcohol will be coming to Arizona basketball games before it shows up at football.
“We are applying for a liquor license right now with the City of Tucson to do that in McKale for a portion of this season,” Heeke explained. “We want to see what we can do and do it the right way, so we’ll likely have that at some point this season.”
Last season, Greg Byrne stated that Arizona Stadium needs some upgrades from an infrastructure standpoint to allow alcohol sales at football games, and Heeke echoed that sentiment on Wednesday.
“We need to have some infrastructure and other facilities that help us serve our fans at a variety of levels,” said Heeke. “We’re headed in that direction, and I think in the not-too-distant future we will have some new opportunities for people.”
Last year, alcohol was sold to the general public at Arizona Stadium during the Arizona Bowl with portable tents set up underneath the stadium, and it didn’t seem like too big of a hassle. But that’s also a smaller crowd than is seen at Arizona home games.
Since 2012, beer has been sold at Arizona baseball games at off-campus Hi Corbett. That first year, Arizona generated $360,000 of revenue in concession sales with a “significant portion” of that being alcohol sales. Beer and wine were also sold at a home soccer game last year.
With the quest to upgrade facilities (including the new indoor football practice field/multi-sport facility), Arizona needs to be able to generate new revenue. One step was the athletics fee. Adding alcohol sales is the next step. I’d also imagine a naming rights deal for Arizona Stadium and possibly McKale Center could be coming to create another revenue stream.
With a new A.D. in place that knows facilities quality drives on-field success in this age of college sports, Arizona fans should probably embrace the changes that are coming.
There are people out there concerned that selling alcohol will make the in-stadium experience less enjoyable because there will be more alcohol-related incidents. Well, that hasn’t been the case at other universities.
The average number of fan ejections at Ohio State home games were 12 in 2015. In 2016, the year the Buckeyes started selling alcohol, the home opener only had two ejections.
“One of the things we saw consistently when talking to schools that tried beer sales, is that it began changing fan behavior,” said Jack Miner, director of operations at Ohio State’s registrar office and a member of the university’s athletic council. “We heard a lot of feedback that fans don’t feel the pressure to drink and preload before entering the stadium. There’s no longer that pressure to chug a few beers while tailgating because you know you can’t drink anymore once you’re inside the stadium.”
West Virginia also claims that selling alcohol during games has decreased violence. WVU has also brought in over $3 million in alcohol sales over the course of five seasons.
I’ve felt for a while that selling alcohol at Arizona sporting events is a no-brainer, and could also make McKale Center and Arizona Stadium more attractive venues for concerts and other events, just adding to the revenue increase.
At a place like Arizona, that would be a huge deal, and could help everyone, not just the beer companies.