Drew Eastland ‘21
The crowd rises together, spectators violently applaud, and the loudspeaker echoes out, “timeout on the court.” As the fans retake their seats for a quick break in the action, a friendly stranger’s voice bellows out “Icccce cold beer heyr!’”
This season, Davidson introduced its men’s basketball fans to a special treat: Brickhouse Above the Rim Taproom. For the first time ever, Wildcat fans can buy a beer (or wine) at home men’s basketball games. While Davidson may not have hired an “ice cold beer” bellowing vendor, selling beer comes in as a close second.
“It’s something we’ve considered for several years,” Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations Jamie Hendricks explained. “We want [our fan experience] to be more in line with what you would expect if you went to a Hornets game or a Panthers game.”
Selling beer centers around improving the stadium ambiance. According to Chris Clunie ‘06, Davidson’s Athletic Director, there has been a nationwide decline in attendance at men’s college football and basketball games.
“Our primary objective was to improve the fan experience to drive revenue and attendance,” Clunie commented. “Because you can watch sporting events everywhere, less people are going to live events.”
Formerly taboo, selling beer and alcohol at college sporting events has become prominent across the country in the last few years. In fact, ten of fourteen schools in the A-10 now sell alcohol at men’s basketball games.
“I don’t know why it was taboo before; it certainly was,” Hendricks said. “I think people were initially concerned that you’re going to just open up a can of worms from a standpoint of fan behavior.”
Underage student consumption poses another concern when colleges sell beer. This has created push-back on some colleges selling alcohol in the past.
Anticipating this problem, the Athletic Department laid down some ground rules: No beer is allowed in the student section. Beer costs $7.00, a number that generally prices out college students and doesn’t encourage excessive consumption. The alcohol is served in clear plastic cups. People purchasing beer or wine must wear yellow identification bracelets. Finally, gameday staff, sometimes called show pros, go through a full training how to monitor alcohol sales and consumption.
“I think we were really comprehensive in the beginning planning of it,” Clunie explained. “We have a lot of contingencies in place to make sure it goes well; to make sure it’s a fun, safe, family friendly atmosphere. That’s never going to change.”
Despite the high price point, Davidson students over 21 have made use of the new beer offerings too, although some students find the rules a little strict.
“I think it’s a pretty great option for students who are 21,” said Grant Pecheck ‘19. “It’s a shame the college won’t actually let students take drinks into the student section.”
Davidson purchases their beer from local brewer NoDa and sells the beer through Brickhouse’s bartending staff. The deal between Brickhouse and Davidson indicates the strong partnership between the restaurant and college.
“[Brickhouse was] more than generous to us,” Hendricks recalled. “Their owner is a wonderful supporter of this college.”
So far, beer sales have been a resounding success for fans and the administration. The goal in implementing beer sales, as well as all other stadium improvements, was to increase revenue and attendance.
“We have had more sellouts this season than any other time other than when Steph Curry was here,” Associate Athletic Director Scott Applegate said. “We will see a significant increase in profits in the future because most of the upfront costs were one-time purchases.”
While the correlation between beer sales and attendance does not necessarily indicate alcohol as a causal factor, there has certainly been a spike in attendance so far this season.
Beer sales have been limited to just men’s basketball games. This is likely due to larger crowds these games draw. Soon, the Athletic Department may look to expand beer sales to other sports. In fact, last spring, Davidson sold beer during four baseball weekends. This season, the Athletic Department is hoping to serve alcohol during home conference weekend series.
For this season, the largest measure of success may be the fact that few, if any, incidents have occurred due to adding beer sales. There have been few complaints about the new initiative.
“Here has been the measure of success: we haven’t heard anything about it,” Clunie said. “Once you do it and it’s quiet, that means it’s pretty good.”