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Illinois will sell beer at games beginning this fall

Drink up.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Championship Game-Wisconsin Scenes Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve always said you might need a cold one to wash down any chance of watching Illinois Athletics.

Now it’s going to happen.

The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced on Tuesday that beer will be sold at Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center beginning this fall, with it also expected to be sold at Illinois Field (baseball) and Eichelberger Field (softball) beginning next year as well. It might even be sold at Illinois Field as soon as this year’s final three home series.

In a press release, Athletic Director Josh Whitman said:

“We are continually looking for ways to improve fan engagement and augment our in-game fan experience. The opportunity to purchase beer at our events was the number one request in a postseason survey of our football ticket holders. Fans indicated beer sales would encourage their use of purchased tickets and would increase the length of time they stayed in the stands. Schools with public beer sales generally see fewer alcohol-related issues. We have spoken with several peer institutions offering beer to ensure we are following best practices for implementing this change. We have studied the issue extensively and, with the collaboration and support of our colleagues in various offices across campus, we feel now is the right time to add this new element to our game-day experience.”

According to the press release, here’s how much it might cost:

  • Domestics: $7
  • Premium/craft beers: $8
  • Baseball and softball prices will range from $5-6

Only two beers will be allowed per valid ID, but this is a pretty remarkable step that the University has tried before in short bursts, including the Bleacher Bum BBQ for Illinois Baseball last year.

Our own Brandon Birkhead argued last year that selling beer may not help the DIA’s problems, but they should still sell it.

It’s no secret that Illinois is struggling with attendance at Illinois Football and Men’s Basketball games, but that issues is a problem for most college sports teams across the country as attendance is falling nationwide.

There are many suggested solutions to help bring more fans to games, and serving alcoholic drinks is one of the most common answers. The culture of fans enjoying beer and other adult beverages at sporting events goes back generations, so it would seem that allowing patrons to drink while watching the games would help draw in more fans.

But, as we can see from the lack of an attendance spike for this season’s Bleacher Bum BBQ, overpriced beer may not be that big of a draw.

Even looking outside of the small picture example of Illinois Baseball, we can look to one of the early adopters of alcohol sales in the Big Ten, Minnesota. Minnesota starting selling alcohol at games in 2012, but didn’t see a significant increase in football attendance.

2009: 50,805 average attendance, 6-7 record

2010: 49,513 average attendance, 3-9 record

2011: 47,714 average attendance, 3-9 record

2012 *Alcohol sales begin: 46,637 average attendance, 6-7 record

2013: 47,797 average attendance, 8-5 record

2014: 47,865 average attendance, 8-5 record

2015: 52,355 average attendance, 6-7 record

2016: 43,814 average attendance, 9-4 record

Minnesota Hockey has also seen a downward trend in attendance over this time.

At the very least, this brings Illinois to the present times. Many schools are selling beer and alcohol at games, and it will at least bring in some source of revenue. How much? Not really sure, but if you could make it happen, why not.

Well, drink up. It’s allowed now. Inside.

For vintage inspired, high quality, and well-designed University of Illinois apparel, check out Fourth and Kirby, and look for the TCR Collection while you’re at it!