Beer sales at Dix Stadium put more football fans in the stands

Beer Sales

Beer Sales

Taylor Rosen

On tap at Dix Stadium, beer has not only led to a spike in attendance and an increase in revenue for Kent State, but it has enhanced the game day experience for Flashes fans.

“Beer provides excitement for fans and provides a sense of enthusiasm while watching the game and supporting your team,” senior public health major Marissa Auletta said.

When Kent State started selling beer at Dix Stadium back in 2009, attendance numbers increased over the next five football seasons and raked in more money for the university.

The sale of beer at collegiate sporting events is a recent trend that has been sweeping college campuses across the nation to make up for low attendance rates. Kent State University can be viewed as the face of the trend because it was one of the first universities in the U.S. to boost attendance rates at football games.

According to a recent article by ESPN, Dix Stadium is among 21 on-campus municipal stadiums where fans can purchase beer, which is twice as many football stadiums as five years ago.

Kent State started selling beer at Dix Stadium during the 2009-2010 football season. In 2009, the university reported 47,015 people attending the football games all season made $15,000 in beer sales in its first year. That number doubled, jumping to 98,663 people just a year later for the  2010-2011 season. 

“The idea was to enhance game experience,” said Randale Richmond, Kent State associate athletic director for academic and compliance services. “You can do that in a number of ways, from inflatables to the food you offer to other things. So beer sales did come out of the brain trust when they began to change things down there in terms of the game day experience. It was all a part of the overhaul to address attendance, but really game experience was the main idea behind it.”

Before the university started selling beer at Dix Stadium, 53,043 fans crowded the stands during the 2008 football season. Attendance increased by more than 6,000 in 2009 and shot to 98,663 in 2010 with beer sales reaching $20,000 for that season. 

The sale of beer at collegiate football games has proven to be instrumental for a smaller, Division I Mid-American Conference school like Kent State because of the struggle to consistently put fans in the seats. 

However, in 2011, the fluctuating total attendance number dropped back down to 44,333, only to skyrocket back up to 97,986 in 2012 when Dri Archer led the team to an undefeated record in conference play and the Flashes’ first bowl game appearance since 1972. In 2013, attendance dropped down to 46,920 — the stadium’s lowest number since 2011 — but beer sales swelled to $28,000 the same year — the highest profit beer has pulled in since beer sales began in 2009.

According to the Kent State Athletic Department’s public records, the Flashes don’t have a consistent amount of fans that show up to Kent State football games during the season. The attendance number jumped from 47,015 in 2009 to 98,663 in 2010, and then back down to 44,333 in 2011.

This is why a smaller university like Kent State implemented the sale of beer at football games. You have power houses like Michigan and Ohio State that are known for consistently drawing more than 100,000 people to each home game, and the Flashes struggle to get to 100,000 for an entire season.

Beer regulation

Kent State developed its own way to regulate the purchase of beer at Dix Stadium. 

The university makes students and fans purchase tickets and wear a wristband to buy the beer, which monitors beer consumption per fan and keeps the environment at Dix Stadium under control. 

Richmond said patrons are only allowed to redeem two tickets at a time to buy beer. He said having people go through a process to get tickets also helps monitor consumption.

“We were looking at implementing a program that would provide safety and would also give us an opportunity to limit consumption,” former athletic director Laing Kennedy said. “You weren’t legally allowed to drink at or outside of Dix Stadium about eight years ago, but it was still happening. Some of it was getting out of control, and so we sat down with our campus police advisers, the state liquor control board and we came up with a plan. You were given a bracelet, and we limited the amount of alcohol you could purchase at the stadium.”

Before the university started selling beer at Dix Stadium, student football fans grew frustrated with the rules that prohibited alcohol and manifested these frustrations through misbehavior at the football games, Kennedy said.

“Our main motivation was safety, and of course we wanted more students to come to football games in general and enjoy the experience,” Kennedy said. “We wanted the students to have the opportunity to legally pregame and drink outside of the stadium, enjoy food and purchase beer in the stadium.”

The university further regulates beer sales by providing fans with only one of the two choices of beer at the games each year, Richmond said.

“The choice of beer is determined based on whatever the distributor provides,” Richmond said. “This year, it’s Budweiser, and last year it was Miller Light. They put us in charge of beer sales, and we do the best job we can to pick one popular brand of beer to be sold at the concessions.”

Maintaining safety 

The athletic department relies heavily on the Kent State police department to handle any incidents that occur at football games, especially ones involving alcohol.

“While they’re going through that process of getting their ID checked and getting tickets, we have the police that are stationed there be able to see their mannerisms,” Richmond said.

When too much alcohol is consumed, problems can follow shortly thereafter, he said.

“We’ve worked so great with the Kent State police that we’re able to go over to them to report any problems,” Richmond said. “They have been amazing and have been there quite a bit helping us from the very beginning. Most of the suggestions they have we just take, because we want to make sure the environment is still positive.”

To date, there haven’t been any incidents or issues due to excessive alcohol consumption at Dix Stadium, making the drinking experience at Dix Stadium all the more worthwhile, Richmond said.

“Overall, our beer sale process has been a great success, and we’ve not had any substantial issues,” he said. “We’ve had amazing support from KSU and Kent City Police, and their presence has undoubtedly been a huge factor. If any patron shows signs of being overly intoxicated, our workers make the police staff aware immediately.”

Contact Taylor Rosen at [email protected].