Kent State one of few public universities to sell beer in stadiums

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Doug Brown

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Kent State doesn’t have a rich football history. What it does have, however, is something most schools don’t: beer sales inside the stadium.

Many universities sell alcohol in private suites and lounges, but Dix Stadium is one of only 20 Football Bowl Subdivision venues with beer available to the public. A decade ago, it was only sold in 10 stadiums, according to USA Today.

The Flashes were an early adapter to the trend as the athletic department introduced beer sales inside the stadium gates eight years ago, said former Athletic Director Laing Kennedy, who retired in the spring of 2010.

Temple University and Bowling Green are the only other Mid-American Conference schools to sell beer in their stadiums.

Outside the stadium, beer had been sold for years. A database from the Ohio Liquor Control Board lists the athletic department’s game-day permits starting in October of 1993 for fenced off areas of the Dix Stadium parking lot.

Adding sales inside was an effort to control consumption by people who want to continue drinking during the game, Kennedy said. He admitted he was initially reluctant to have the department involved in alcohol.

“It’s kind of contrary to what we stand for,” he said, but controlled selling is more beneficial “compared to the alternative.”

“If you don’t (sell it in the stadium), are you kidding me? They are going to drink,” he said. “They are going to bring it in their coke bottles and there is going to be alcohol consumed. You’re bringing more than beer. You’re bringing liquor; you’re bringing hard stuff that can create a situation that you really don’t want. You get fans drunk and unruly, fighting, abusive.”

With temperatures in the mid 50s and strong winds, Saturday’s homecoming against Miami was one of those games where beer sales was limited.

“The weather has been slowing (sales) down, compared to last year,” said Roger Bergh, who was working at one of the beer stations inside the stadium Saturday as part of a fundraiser for the Stow Lacrosse Club. “Miami is not a big rival to us here, but if it were the Akron game again, it would have been really good.”

Dix Stadium sold 6,702 beers during last year’s game against Akron, more than the other five home games combined. Using the reported attendance and number of beers sold, there was more than twice as much drinking per person than at any other game.

“Homecoming, a full stadium, hot sunny day and the numbers are probably going to spike,” Kleinlein said about the Akron game.

On the other end of the scale was last year’s season finale against Ohio, where Dix Stadium had about one third of the attendance (a reported 8,340 people) and one 19th of the beer sales (346 beers) compared to the game against the Zips.

“Attendance was obviously down for the Ohio game last year,” Kleinlein said. “We had a football staff that was already told they would be relieved of their jobs. If I remember the day, it was pretty cold, pretty nasty outside.”

During the home opener this season against Louisiana Lafayette, there was a reported attendance of 10,386 and 1,064 beers were sold. On Sept. 24, 13,352 people showed up to see the Flashes face South Alabama and 1,381 beers were sold.

Crime correlations

Despite the availability of alcohol – or perhaps because of it – there have been few alcohol related arrests during football games. Since 2004, there have been 10 arrests at Dix Stadium: five for disorderly conduct, four for alcohol violations and one for littering, according to the Kent State University Police Department.

During days with home games, there have been no arrests since 2007. One person was arrested for an alcohol violation at the home opener against Delaware State, and one person was arrested for disorderly conduct at the next home game against Miami.

“We typically don’t have a lot of problems with disorderly students,” said Michquel Penn, Kent State police officer. “We don’t have anybody at the games falling over or passing out drunk. We’ve been fortunate, the system they have in place works pretty well.”

Kennedy, who retired as athletic director in the spring of 2010, said he couldn’t recall any problems with beer sales.

“This goes back to when I was athletic director,” he said. “We would have a police check on Monday mornings, and they would indicate where they had issues or did not have issues, and there was nothing that I would put in the category of problematic.”

Roger Bergh, who has served beer at every home game since the start of last season, said he hasn’t seen a problem with alcohol in the stadium.

The campus police department wouldn’t say how many officers work at the stadium during games, but their visible presence around the beer stations inside the stadium can keep people in line, he said.

“Here at the university, we have great support from the police,” said Burgh, pointing to two nearby officers watching over beer station as they close down at the end of halftime at Saturday’s game against Miami. “They’re standing here watching us and we want to be here next year and have the kids buy here next year, so the kids really understand.”

Kennedy said selling beer in the stadium has been overwhelmingly positive since starting eight years ago.

“More so than I anticipated,” Kennedy said. “I was kind of reluctant to do it. I said ok let’s give it a try and the end result exceed my expectations.”

Contact Doug Brown at [email protected].