Penn State board of trustees approve beer sale to general fanbase during home games

Which is the biggest toilet in Center County?

Very soon matchday will be Beaver Stadium.

The Penn State Board of Trustees voted 28-5 on Friday to approve its plan to offer beer sales to an adult fan base during Nittany Lion home games and other stadium events. No official start date was given Friday, but Athletic Director Pat Kraft has said in the past with proxy approval that beer sales could begin as early as the scheduled home game against Northwestern on October 1.

Since 2016, Penn State has allowed the serving of alcohol in club suites and other semi-private areas of Beaver Stadium. But this is the first time alcohol sales are open to the general fan base, just like any professional sports ballpark tour around the state.

The original proposal included the sale of hard seltzers, but trustees approved a change to the plan Friday that removed seltzers from the menu. A task force will also be formed to review the program and its impact on society.

Kraft said the reasons for the open beer sales plan include providing a “significant improvement to the fan experience and game day atmosphere.” He told his trustees that his latest fan poll on Beaver Stadium improvements is a feature that most respondents said they would like to see.

Kraft also said this is a trend that spans major college sports, noting that there are experiences from peer schools that show a reduction in alcohol-related incidents at college football stadiums serving alcohol at the venue. “We believe this can really help some situations on game day,” Kraft said.

Penn State would become the ninth of 14 Big Ten Conference schools to offer a stadium-wide type of alcohol sale.

Five trustees opposed the plan, mostly out of concern that it would negatively impact the playday experience of families with children.

Valerie Detwiler questioned what had happened to their game day experience, noting that 36.4 percent of respondents to a survey question on the matter said they would definitely or probably oppose the sale of beer.

“A day at Beaver Stadium is one of the best ways we can start training young Nittany Lions,” Detwiler said, opposing the change. “Think about the memories of your first trip to the stadium… How proud alumni are to bring their children to the stadium at an early age in the hope that they will become Penn Staters themselves.

“This is the best advertisement we could hope for, and it has obviously served us well. “We did all this without the sale of alcohol in the stadium,” Detwiler said. He noted that fans who want to drink can also do it outside the stadium before and after the game. It will have a negative impact on families’ game day experience.”

But Brandon Short, the Trustees backing the move, argued that he trusts Penn State fans to handle the new privilege responsibly. And, added Short, there is an element of justice involved.

“Why should we assume that people sitting in club seats can drink responsibly, but the average fan cannot?” He asked briefly. “Considering that Ohio State fans can drink responsibly, but Penn State fans can’t, what do we say to our fans. I believe Penn State is a special place and we can do what other schools can do, but we can do better.

“And we are wrong, we reserve the right to let things go as they are” and we kill the project.

Under the approved plan, 16-ounce beers will not be sold at existing, permanent concession stands. Instead, mobile stations will be placed “strategically” throughout the stadium, but not in areas directly adjacent to the student section, Kraft stressed. However, student ticket holders 21 years of age or older will be allowed to purchase.

Everyone making a purchase will need to show ID for age verification, and will also be given a wristband that will help stadium security monitor in real time only those who have passed the age check are drinking.

“If you don’t have a bracelet, you shouldn’t have a drink on your hand,” Kraft said.

There will also be a “mystery shopper” program to ensure that all age verification protocols are followed, according to information presented to the trustees ahead of Friday’s vote.

All beer sales will cease at the end of the third quarter.

Additionally, the university promised that all beer-serving staff involved—many of whom will be employees of Oak View Group, a firm that supports concessions at a number of major stadium venues—will be RAMP-trained and certified. In fact, athletic department staff said most of them already have this certification.

“These are professional brewers working at Citizens Bank Park, Allentown, and other venues,” Carl Heck, Senior Athletic Director of Capital Projects, Events and Facilities, told a board committee earlier this month.

Proceeds from the sale of alcohol will be used for deferred maintenance projects at the stadium.

The athletics department predicted a small net loss in the first year, but that’s mainly because there isn’t a full season to recoup the start-up costs, including 140 new mobile point-of-sale units that can be used at any concession stand. Heck told the committee this month that first-year expenses are estimated at $2.4 million, with revenues close to that but slightly less.

Penn State expects profits from beer sales for the second year and beyond.

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