The University of Illinois’ football team, Fighting Illini, is not bringing in as many fans as they would hope. So, the university is turning to beer for help.
For the first time this fall, the university will allow beer sales in the stadium’s general seating areas for home football and basketball games. Last year, the Memorial Stadium was only about 56 percent full on average, according to A Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, making Illinois the worst in the Big 10. The associate athletic director for ticketing and sales, Jason Heggemeyer, told The Champaign News-Gazette that school officials hope that beer sales can reverse the two-year decline in attendance at home games.
Fans will be able to access beer in general seating areas at Memorial and State Farm Center – something that the team hopes will help keep fans from leaving the stadium at halftime to tailgate. According to the Herald & Review, it is possible that beer sales will begin at softball games in 2020.
“We are continually looking for ways to improve fan engagement and augment our in-game fan experience,” Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said in a press release when the announcement was first made earlier this year. “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.”