Iowa’s decision this week to expand alcohol sales at four of its sports venues was inevitable.
It’s not uncommon — the university became the eighth school in the Big Ten to offer alcohol sales in the general seating areas. Fans at events in Kinnick Stadium, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Bob Pearl Field and Duane Banks Field will be able to buy beer and wine this season at games, joining almost half of the universities in Power 5 conferences that offer beer sales at football games.
It’s a pilot program, with 30 percent of the net sales going toward initiatives developed by the university’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee, which was formed in 2009 to reduce high-risk drinking at the university.
“We have 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,”
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said in a statement. “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.”
It was only a matter of time before this happened. Athletic departments are looking for new revenue streams, and there has been a slow expansion of sales at Kinnick, first in the suites in the press box and then in the newly-renovated north end zone.
Some thoughts on the program:
• It will make money. Barta can say it’s about the fan experience, but this will be a profitable venture. Big Ten universities have made seven figures in sales at their football stadiums alone. With Iowa selling alcohol at its primary indoor arena as well as the baseball and softball stadiums, it should be highly profitable..
The move to expand sales was coming. But the COVID-19 pandemic likely forced the decision into hyperdrive. The athletic department was hit with an eight-figure loss during the pandemic, and although ticket sales and television revenue should return to normal this season, any new revenue — particularly a seven-figure profit — is welcome.
• There will be complaints. Some advice to fans before the first game — the drinks won’t be cheap, and you may not like the selection.
I’ve found there are three things you never argue about on social media — politics, religion, and beer quality. Within a couple of hours after Iowa’s announcement, the debate began on Twitter about what kind of beer should be served. The tastes, of course, were wide-ranging, and there were a few “They better not serve (insert beer name here)” posts.
The craft beer fans will want sales from local breweries. There will be fans who will just be happy that there is alcohol available, and won’t care what’s being served — a few probably wouldn’t mind if there was a stand offering the cheapest beer imaginable. And no matter what is offered, you may find the price a little steep.
Be prepared for some unhappiness.
• Be ready, because tailgating time is going to be limited. If you park in a university lot, your pre-game tailgating time may be reduced. Lots will open no more than six hours before kickoff, and no earlier than 6 a.m. Overnight parking will be limited to only RVs.
Three of Iowa’s home kickoff times have been set, all at 2:30 p.m. As of now, there are no 11 a.m. home kickoffs on the schedule, but there likely will be one or two. As well, there likely will be one home night game.
The goal is to limit the amount of pre-game drinking time, although six hours is still a substantial amount of time. Plus, there are no limits on when private tailgating lots will open. So how much significance there is in this decision remains to be seen.
• Don’t screw it up. A rise in alcohol-related incidents might end this program. So just be smart.