Brews in Kidd Brewer: the start of alcohol sales on App State game days

Rachel Greenland and Nora Smith

App State football constantly defies expectations on the field. House Bill 389, however, may have come up a few yards short of a touchdown for the first three games of 2019.

Gov. Roy Cooper passed HB 389 in June, allowing UNC System schools to sell beer and wine at athletics facilities. Many football fans expected this law would lead to large profits for the university and reduced illegal activity at games.

“Most of the adults, parents and visitors are all over age, and if you don’t sell it in there, they’ll just take it in there in mini bottles or something like that,” said James Lucas, whose son is a freshman at App State. “And, it creates a lot of revenue for the university.”

Attendees no longer have to stuff their pockets with liquid gold to keep their buzz, but gold isn’t exactly flowing into the pockets of App State Athletics. 

At the season opener on Aug. 31, fans bought 6,030 cans of beer. Cans are $7 for domestic beers, like Miller Lite, and $9 for local beers from Booneshine and Appalachian Mountain Brewery. AMB’s Yosef Golden Ale, crafted specifically for App State, constituted 35% of beer sales.

Despite the thousands of cans sold, Joey Jones, senior associate director for strategic communication for App State Athletics, said profits are marginal, especially compared to the department’s $25.1 million revenue in 2018.

“We’ve been pleased with the sales, but it hasn’t been a dramatic, huge turnout of beer sales that will somehow spike our revenues,” Jones said. “We realize that it’s going to be a minor revenue-generating thing, but more so that it’s an in-stadium amenity that we can give fans.”

Some tailgating students said they were hesitant to pay the high prices for in-stadium alcohol. Jones said the pricing was strategic.

“The prices we set are standard across a lot of college and professional venues,” Jones said. “Some of the pricing model is to make sure that we’re not selling it so cheaply that it is easy to overconsume.”

Athletics met with University Police and the university’s risk management department during the preseason to create measures that ensure a safe game day experience for visitors. Alcohol vendors are trained to spot false identification, and officers keep underage visitors away from the long lines. Guests can buy only one beer per transaction.

Data from University Police show law enforcement’s alcohol responses at games have remained largely stagnant compared to past seasons. Police chief Andy Stephenson said the alcohol sales haven’t warranted additional staffing, although game days are a mandatory workday for all University Police officers and student cadets.

“We didn’t have to bring in additional personnel to staff the stadium venues with this new policy in effect, but we realigned what we were doing,” Stephenson said. “We did want to have some eyes and ears with radio capabilities close to those points of sale in case there was a problem.”

Stephenson said the largest hurdle for police and fans alike has been the stadium’s infrastructure.

“(The stadium) was not built for a Division 1 FBS football powerhouse that’s drawn 30,000-35,000 people here for games,” Stephenson said. “This was built for an FCS Division 1 AA 5,000-fan type of contest.”

Jones said App State Athletics knows the concourse has experienced increased crowding but attributes it to a combination of construction, regular concessions and beer sales. When construction on the new end zone facility is complete, Jones said fans will be able to spread around the stadium, reducing overcrowding in the concessions area. 

Athletics employees will continue strategizing how to improve sales, safety and overcrowding after each game and address visitor concerns in hopes of taking HB 389 into the end zone.