What is the largest dining hall in Center County?
Pretty soon, it will be Beaver Stadium on game day.
The Penn State board voted 28-5 Friday to approve a plan to offer beer sales to the adult fan base during Nittany Lion home games and other stadium events. No official start date was given Friday, although Athletic Director Pat Kraft previously said that with administrator approval beer sales could begin as early as the scheduled Oct. 1 home game against Northwestern.
Since 2016, Penn State has allowed alcohol service in club suites and other semi-private areas of Beaver Stadium. But this is the first time alcohol sales will be open to the general fan base, such as on a trip to any professional sports ballpark across the state.
The original proposal included hard seltzer sales, but trustees approved an amendment to the plan Friday that dropped seltzer from the menu. A task force will also be established to review the program and its impact on the community.
Kraft said reasons for the open beer sales plan include providing “a significant improvement to the fan experience and game day atmosphere.” He told administrators that in the most recent fan survey about Beaver Stadium improvements, it was a feature most respondents said they wanted to see.
Kraft also said it’s a trend sweeping major college sports and noted that there is experience from peer schools that shows there has been a decrease in alcohol-related incidents at college football stadiums that serve alcohol on site. “We think that could really help some of the situations on game day,” Kraft said.
Penn State will become the ninth of 14 Big Ten Conference schools to offer some type of stadium-wide alcohol sale.
Five trustees opposed the plan, primarily out of concern that it would negatively impact the game day experience for families with children.
Valerie Detwiler, noting that 36.4 percent of respondents to a survey question on the topic said they would definitely or probably be opposed to selling beer, questioned what’s going on with their game day experience.
“A day at Beaver Stadium is one of the best ways to start cultivating young Nittany Lions,” Detwiler said in support of the change. “Think about your own memories of your first trip to the stadium… How proud alumni are excited to bring their children to the stadium at a young age in hopes that they, too, will become Penn Staters.
“This is the best advertisement we could have ever hoped for, and it has clearly served us well. We’ve done all of this without selling alcohol at the stadium,” Detwiler said. He noted that fans who want to drink can still do so before and after the game outside the stadium. But, he concluded, “selling beer at the stadium will have a negative impact on the match day experience for families”.
In supporting the move, however, administrator Brandon Short argued that he trusts Penn State fans to handle the new perk responsibly. And, Short added, there is an element of fairness involved.
“Why do we think people sitting in clubs can drink responsibly but the average fan can’t?” Close asked. “What are we telling our fans if we think Ohio State fans can drink responsibly, but Penn State fans can’t. I believe that Penn State is a special place and that we can do what any other school can do, but we can do it better.
“And we’re wrong, we reserve the right to go as things were” and kill the project.
Under the plan as approved, 16-ounce beers would not be sold at existing, permanent sales. Instead, mobile stations will be placed “strategically” throughout the stadium, but, Kraft stressed, not in areas directly adjacent to the student section. However, student ticket holders who are 21 years of age or older will be allowed to purchase.
Anyone making a purchase will be required to show ID for age verification and will also be given a wristband to help stadium security monitor in real time that only those who have passed age verification are drinking.
“If you don’t have a wristband, you shouldn’t have a drink in your hand,” Kraft said.
There will also be, according to information presented to trustees before Friday’s vote, a “mystery shopper” program to ensure all age verification protocols are followed.
All beer sales will cease at the end of the third quarter.
In addition, the university has committed that all involved staff serving beer – most of whom will be employees of the Oak View Group, a company that supports concessions at various major stadium venues – serving beer will be RAMP trained and certified. In fact, athletic department staff said, most already have that certification.
“These are professional brewers who work at Citizens Bank Park, Allentown and other venues,” Carl Heck, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Capital Projects, Events and Facilities, told a board committee earlier this month.
Revenue generated from liquor sales will be used for deferred maintenance projects at the stadium.
The athletic department has projected a small net loss in the first year, however, largely due to not having a full season to cover start-up costs, including 140 new mobile point-of-sale units that can be used at any concession stands. First-year expenses are projected at $2.4 million, with revenue close to that but slightly less, Heck told the committee this month.
Penn State expects profits from beer sales in the second year and beyond.