NORMAN — Joe Castiglione has heard some make “money-grab” comments about the move to allow alcohol sales at University of Oklahoma sporting events.
That’s far from the case, the OU director of athletics said on Friday, noting $80,000 was the approximate net revenue following a recent seven-month pilot program for alcohol sales.
Just moments earlier, the OU Board of Regents passed President James Gallogly’s recommendation to authorize the permanent sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages at athletic events and facilities beginning in 2019.
Passage came after the pilot program tested alcohol sales at sporting events including basketball games, softball games, baseball games and the Sooners’ spring football game.
Some could look at the $8.50 that the school charged for a 20-ounce beer during the spring game and think Oklahoma’s athletic department account would be overflowing with cash.
“This idea wasn’t driven by some type of revenue windfall that we might make if we open it up. That’s not the impetus behind this,” Castiglione said. “It was really hearing from fans — quite a few fans — wanting an opportunity that they get in other venues for football, basketball, baseball, whatever it is, throughout the state of Oklahoma and in places they travel.
“It’s becoming more common. It’s been common in pro sports venues for a long time. It’s certainly become more common in collegiate facilities for the past five or 10 years.”
Tulsa (2016) and Oklahoma State (2018) recently began alcohol sales during home football games. OU joins OSU, Texas and West Virginia as Big 12 schools where fans can purchase beer throughout the stadium.
Revenues from alcohol sales will be allocated for facilities, capital projects and programs for the benefit of the patrons and the fan experience.
The biggest test for beer sales was the spring football game. Castiglione said the school was watching the numbers.
The OU director of athletics said out of the 50,000 that attended the Friday night contest, about 6,000 beers were sold, which was the proportion that the school anticipated.
Fans have raised the issue of alcohol sales at sporting events for years, but the school took a slow approach, Castiglione said.
“We’ve had one of the more conservative philosophies here, and it’s been for good reason. It’s been something that we didn’t think we needed to do and I don’t think we’re forced to do it either,” Castiglione said. “I think it’s just considering the response that’s come from our fans. They are coming to the games on a regular basis. We want them to continue to come to the games on a regular basis. They might come in and purchase one — and depending on the event, maybe two. It’s not something that has been abused at all.”
The school reported to regents that no specific incidents had been reported related to the sale of alcohol as part of the pilot program.
“We realize that this is not for everybody. We understand and appreciate the fans that don’t like the idea. We’re considerate about their experience too,” Castiglione said. “But percentage-wise, we don’t expect this to be a large percentage of the fan base in those seats on game days. It’s just a small portion.”
Castiglione knows there always will be cynics thinking OU is doing this because of something contrary to their statement.
“I just tell them they’re wrong. It is what it is,” he said. “It’s not something that I think is going to be the greatest part of the experience at our venue, it’s just part of the experience. For those, the small group that want this opportunity, we are able to offer it to them. Some fans like something else. We’re trying to think about what we can do.
“We can’t be all things to all people, but we’re trying to figure out what drives the best fan experience for the people at the University of Oklahoma. That’s an ongoing effort and will always be that way as we continue to evolve with fan interest.”
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