Beer boosts concession sales at WVU football games
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Adding beer sales and requiring West Virginia University football fans to stay put throughout games translated to stronger concession sales and fewer arrests this past season, a student who crunched numbers for the athletic department said Friday.
Industrial engineering student Richard Woody told the Board of Governors that concession sales were up 84 percent overall from the previous football season, while food sales were up 60 percent.
Concession sales totaled $613,651 in the 2010-11 season and $744,082 this season, said athletics spokesman Mike Fragale. Add in beer sales, and the total for this past season was $1.26 million.
In pitching a change to the school's alcohol policy last year, Athletic Director Oliver Luck estimated WVU could make as much as $1.2 million a season in beer sales alone, depending on weather, attendance and team performance. This past season, it made nearly $520,000.
Woody, who gathered data from stadium staff and from WVU and city police, also said the number of calls, arrests and charges filed on game days was down across the board. That included underage drinking and open container violations.
"I think it worked," said WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts, who supported Luck's multipronged plan to reduce binge drinking and bad behavior by selling beer at Mountaineer Field for the first time and ending a long-standing practice of letting fans leave during the game.
The so-called "pass-out" policy allowed hard-partying fans to drink heavily in the parking lot then return to the stadium, where they often ruined the fun for others. Now, people who leave aren't allowed back in.
"This was probably the best season I've ever worked," Roberts said.
The only surprise, he said, was that pre-game drinking led to busier first halves for police. Generally, Roberts said, second halves "were quieter and pleasant."
Roberts told the board police made 149 arrests at a single game between Louisiana State and Alabama last fall.
"That was more arrests than we had the whole season," he said.
"It's not perfect anytime you get 60,000 people in one place," Roberts added. "But I do believe it worked."
Board member James Dailey was skeptical last year that selling beer would help curtail rowdiness.
"It pleases me tremendously to see it worked," he told Luck. "It worked very, very well."
One more bit of good news from Woody's report made board members chuckle: Restroom use was only above his predictions for two big games, Louisville and Connecticut, and two portable, 12-stall bathroom trailers were barely used.
Woody recommends eliminating them next season, but adding hot food stands with hot dogs and pretzels -- the most commonly purchased foods -- at the beer concession points so people don't have to make two stops.
He also said the decision to keep beer sales away from the student section forced general admission fans and season ticket holders at that end of the stadium to travel farther than necessary and created congestion in other areas.
Woody said his staff surveyed roughly 25 percent of season ticket holders about their experiences at the Louisville and Connecticut games.
About 78 percent described their stadium experience as enjoyable. Fourteen to 17 percent said it was enjoyable, but that disruptive behavior was still present.