Football fans woke up to a long-awaited announcement from the university: Tennessee has officially joined the contingent of athletic programs to take advantage of the SEC’s new alcohol sales policy.
Following the appointment of Chancellor Donde Plowman, a task force to assess the university’s alcohol policy and the feasibility of serving alcohol at sporting events was formed. The task force’s decision to allow alcohol sales starting with the BYU game on Saturday, Sept. 7 was announced Tuesday.
"I appreciate everyone whose efforts have helped us develop what we believe is a comprehensive and responsible plan for alcohol sales at home football games," UT Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer said in a release Friday. "The game day experience at Neyland Stadium is historic and unrivaled, and I'm confident these new concessions options will aid our continued efforts to enhance that experience for Tennessee fans and visitors throughout the stadium."
Plowman’s committee focused on developing policies and infrastructure to support alcohol sales in accordance with applicable laws. The process placed a emphasis on fan experience, as well and their safety and security.
"We remain committed to providing a safe, positive, and family-friendly atmosphere in our venues and have measures in place to assure that standard is met," Fulmer added.
Trained and licensed servers will sell beer at games, located at concession stands and kiosks across the stadium, except for areas near the student section. Wine will be sold in the Tennessee Terrace and East and West Clubs. Water will be available free of charge from tanks located in the concourse.
No more than two alcoholic beverages will be sold per transaction, and each will be poured into a clear cup upon purchase due to the Southeastern Conference policy. Regardless of age, every purchase will require a valid photo ID. Accepted IDs include driver’s licenses, military IDs, passports and government-issued photo ID cards.
Those consuming alcohol can be ask to show ID at any point in time.
“Anyone consuming alcohol must be able to prove—at any time or location—that they are age 21 or older,” the policy states.
Beer sales will end at the when the third quarter ends and alcohol cannot leave the stadium. Personnel will be staffed at all exits to enforce the disposal of all drinking cups before exiting the game.
Law enforcement and game day staff will be trained to watch for binge drinking, underage drinking and other alcohol-related incidents at the stadium. Fans can be ejected from the sports venue and subject to prosecution if alcohol is passed to a minor, the use of fake ID is attempted or they are intoxicated.
A game text message system will be in place for fans who need assistance to due to fan behavior or for medical or custodial issues. Fans will send a text to 69050 beginning with VOLS and including seat location and a description of the issue.
UT will also introduce a ride-share pickup area by Circle Drive near Ayres Hall. Game attendees can visit the fan information booth at Gate 21 and register as designated drivers, pledging to refrain from drinking and receiving a wristband and voucher for a free water or soft drink. Drivers can register through halftime and must provide name, driver’s license number, email, section, row and seat number.
In April, Governor Bill Lee passed legislation to allow alcohol sales at public university events, and the SEC lifted its ban of alcohol sales at sporting events two months later. This left the decision to sell alcohol at events in the hands of the university after a beer permit was granted to Aramark by the Knoxville Beer Board.
While the policy is open to all SEC teams, Tennessee now joins Missouri, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Vanderbilt as the schools who have adopted the new policy, which officially went into effect Aug. 1.
Alice Cooper concert paves way for alcohol at sporting events
Alice Cooper rocked Thompson-Boling Arena August 3, while alcohol sales rocked the concourse for the first time at a non-sporting event on campus.
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance & Administration Jeff Maples said alcohol sales at the concert would serve as a test run for future events and potential sales at sporting events in Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena and Regal Stadium ahead of the concert.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Maples said. “I think we’ve done all the planning.”
Beer sales ended at 10:30 p.m. and concert-goers could purchase no more than two beers per transaction at one of the five kiosks located around the concourse. For $12, attendees could purchase a 16 ounce Bon Viv Spiked Seltzer, 25 ounce Bud Light, 24 ounce Miller Lite and 24 ounce Coors Light; for $13, a 25 ounce Michelob Ultra and 19.2 ounce Lagunitas Brewing Company IPA could be purchased. All beers were sold in cans for the Alice Cooper concert.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Maples said ahead of the concert. “Alcohol is sold at venues like this all over the country. A matter of fact, venues who attract acts like us is one of the last ones to introduce alcohol.”
“The event we’re going to have Saturday night would not have come without the introduction of alcohol,” Maples added, sharing that their deal with Alice Cooper depended on the passing of the legislation in April.
The university will receive “a fixed percentage” based on its contract with Aramark, although a specific number was not released. Maples estimated that the arena will see anywhere from $10 to $12 per person with alcohol sales, where they used to see $2 to $4.
With the additional revenue, Maples said the funds can be used to attract big name artists like Alice Cooper with hopes of adding 4 to 5 shows at Thompson-Boling Arena each year.
“There are other acts that we’re talking to down the road that are very much interested now, very interested in coming to Knoxville now because we offer this,'” Maples said. “I want to keep that in mind as one of the main focuses that we're doing is trying to, again, to impact Knoxville and help bring additional acts and entertainment groups to this area.”
Maples said the entertainment industry has changed over the last 30 years, and what used to be a simple process to book an act has become much more as parking, concessions and souvenirs factor into the decision.
“If they can’t get the rate or the percentage they need, they’ll go to another location,” Maples said. “So adding this (alcohol) as another revenue source for us is a big deal.”
Director of Media Relations Tyra Haag said the concert provided the results the university was looking for.
“This concert was an opportunity to test security and systems in place,” Haag said. “The event and new services were successful with no significant issues.”