COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes may not have made the College Football Playoff this season, but it appears their fans outperformed in 2017 when it came to beer sales in the ‘Shoe.
Net revenue from alcohol sales at Ohio Stadium totaled more than $1.35 million this season. That’s nearly 16 percent more than last year, when Ohio State first started selling beer at the stadium.
Revenue from beer sales in Ohio Stadium last year helped fund campus safety initiatives, including the hiring of four additional police officers, increased security at football games and funding for the center that tries to limit alcohol and substance abuse.
Ohio State has seen a decrease in ejections from the stadium and open-container citations on game days since the school began selling beer at football games, according to public safety information obtained by The Dispatch. Ejections were down from 103 in the 2015 season to 25 in 2016 and 24 in 2017. Open-container citations were down from 65 in 2015 to four in 2016 and two in 2017.
Alcohol arrests within the stadium, however, have increased each season since beer sales began, up from 14 in 2015 to 22 last season and 57 this season. But university officials say most of those arrests are of underage individuals attempting to purchase alcohol, and those arrests did not occur before 2016 when beer was not sold.
Down the road in Athens, Ohio University raked in more than $66,000 in gross beer sales this season in its first year of expanded sales at Bobcats football games. That netted the university $23,100 for its general athletics fund, per the revenue-sharing contract the university has with AVI Foodsystems Inc., according to Ohio University spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood.
Ohio University officials didn’t set revenue goals for the first year of beer sales, said Michael Stephens, senior associate athletic director, but they were satisfied with the overall outcome.
“We were pleased,” he said. “Our goal was to be able to serve alcohol for the first time and do it well operationally without incident to the stadium.”
Though Ohio University and other Ohio colleges reported gross beer sales when The Dispatch requested that information, Ohio State would not provide its gross figures, citing its contract with its food and beverage vendor.
“In accordance with our contract with Levy Restaurants, gross sales information is not public,” Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email.
Ohio University was the latest Ohio school to begin beer sales in its stadium, following a national trend.
“We wanted to add another offering for what we provide for our fans when they come to our stadium,” Stephens said. “This was another part of that game-day experience.”
It’s a trend sports-business experts expect to continue. While groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been vocal opponents of the sale of alcohol at college sporting events, such sales have otherwise received little pushback while offering universities a way to enhance their budgets, said David Carter, executive director for the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
“Stakeholders have weighed the costs and benefits associated with these sales — which include the potential for increased in-stadium drunken and rowdy behavior and the optics and legal implications that may ensue,” Carter said in an email.
“For the most part, there has been a collective shrug as alcohol consumption and sports are more intertwined than ever, especially at the professional level,” he said. “As college sports resemble pro sports more every day, it’s not surprising that its business model has done so as well.”
Among other public Ohio colleges that serve beer at football games and which responded to The Dispatch, the University of Toledo saw the most gross beer sales with nearly $118,800. Bowling Green State University had more than $53,700 in gross beer sales, and the University of Akron had nearly $41,700.
Bowling Green receives a 30 percent commission from gross sales from its vendor, a spokesman said. Toledo did not provide net-revenue figures, and Akron said it did not receive a commission from beer sales.
A University of Cincinnati spokesman said the school was still finalizing its beer sales from this season, while Kent State, Miami and Youngstown State did not provide beer-sales information when asked by The Dispatch last week.
When Ohio University officials gave beer sales the green light for this season, they opted not to sell beer on the student side of the stadium, a decision that will continue next year, Stephens said.
“On the student side there are many that are not of age, so we felt it was the right thing to do,” he said.