How Overpriced Alcohol Will Affect the Fan Experience
Or, why I will continue to binge drink.
By Will Strecker, University of Texas at Austin
During my years at UT, I always dreamt of drinking a beer inside the glorious Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, watching my beloved Longhorns dominate week after week.
This past weekend one of those dreams was finally realized, and it wasn’t because we’ll be returning to the glory days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy anytime soon (though Jerrod Heard showed flashes of possible greatness last week).
No, more often than I want to admit, I’ve given up on our team by halftime. Once that mid-game lull comes around and the pre-game inebriation fades, I was forced countless times to retreat from the stadium and walk seemingly endless distances in an exhausted, drunken haze in a quest for more beer. But not any more. Hallelujah!
Last weekend, the era that nearly every UT student, fan and alumnus has dreamt about for years finally began. Nothing quite encapsulates the great sport of football like beer, yelling and sweat, but until this year, UT fans made due with only the latter two.
In my mind, the decision to sell alcohol in the stadium is long overdue. Claims that it will increase alcohol-related injuries, drunk driving or drunken rambunctiousness are absurd. Fans, especially the students, are going to get drunk for the games. Nothing Mothers Against Drunk Driving or any other school donor or entity does is ever going to change that. The concept of looking out for student welfare is a moot point—if we’re not drinking at the stadium, we’re leaving the stadium momentarily to shotgun a few beers or, if we have the means, inject alcohol straight into our bloodstream via IV.
It’s much more practical to help monitor our alcohol consumption—if the aim really is looking out for student health—by selling it to us in restricted quantities and making the price high enough to discourage customers from binge drinking. The University of Texas has done just that.
It’s impossible to cut down on drinking before home games; tailgating is as much a part of football as concussions and torn knee ligaments. In fact, it benefits everyone at the games if the fans stay in the seats and stay drunk.
The reasons for this are obvious: drunk people are loud, and loud people create home field advantages, meaning that drunk people help create great home field advantages.
Plus, drinking makes people lose their inhibitions, particularly their financial inhibitions, making them much more likely to spend money on concessions, bringing in more money for the school. By not selling alcohol at football games, the school is not capitalizing on a potential money-making opportunity. All of this was obvious to UT students for years, but it took UT until 2015 to finally move past whatever reasons kept them from making this decision years ago.
I’m glad they finally have. The University of Texas is the fourth school in the UT system to sell alcohol at the stadium, and the sixth school in Texas to do so. Better late than never. From the moment students enter the stadium, they are greeted by several beer vendors attempting to draw their attention. Throughout the game, the length of lines to purchase the $8 Coors Light varied from a few people to dozens, snaking down the stadium corridors. Apparently, the 800% price hike on a beer that sells for $1 at Cain & Abel’s on Tuesdays wasn’t much of a hindrance for fans. I imagine there must be research done in respect to alcohol pricing at sporting events, optimizing the cost of a beer to number of beers sold; however, the high price of what is essentially alcoholic piss-water is just too high for me.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard.
At most, I can see myself buying two, maybe three beers, and that’s only if it’s a Saturday after payday.
If I’m feeling especially flippant with my money, I may buy a fourth, maybe a fifth.
Okay, I can’t say I wouldn’t spend upwards of $40 on beer at the game, given the correct circumstances both financially and in terms of level of intoxication. But I digress. My fully coherent and frugal self would never spend more than $20 on beer at the game, when it makes much more sense to drink endless amounts of free alcoholic piss-water at the tailgates before the game.
In fact, frankly, once the initial excitement wears off, I doubt I or many of my fellow students will continue to buy more than a couple beers at the game. However, knowing that there is beer a few feet away as opposed to a few thousand feet away outside the stadium is comforting. This convenience compels me to stay in my seat as opposed to leaving the game to “pound some brews with the boys,” likely never to return to support my burnt orange brothers.
Looking past the price dilemma, what I’ve stated above is exactly the goal of selling beer at football games. Students aren’t supposed to be able to binge drink prior to the game, flood into the stadium and continue to binge drink at the game. A $4/$5 price on beer may increase sales, but would also increase the risk of inexperienced beer drinkers harming themselves or others. The aim isn’t to continue the pregame rituals well into game time, it’s to maintain the level of overall fan inebriation throughout the entirety of the game. Drunk fans are the best fans, but fans that are too intoxicated to speak, keep their eyes open or their nachos down are not the fans that a team, let alone a school, wants to put in their stands.
An $8 price for domestic beer and $9 price for imports are probably the optimal prices to ensure a happy drunk medium among fans—too high to buy large quantities, but low enough to see a substantial increase in revenue. While it may be an additional hit to students’ pockets, it creates a more gratifying overall football experience, and both the school and students alike will benefit from the decision.