Alice Cooper will rock Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday while alcohol sales rock the concourse.
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance & Administration Jeff Maples said alcohol sales at the concert will serve as a test run for future events and potential sales at sporting events in Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena and Regal Stadium.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Maples said. “I think we’ve done all the planning.”
Beer sales will end at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and concert-goers can purchase no more than two beers per transaction at one of the five kiosks located around the concourse. For $12, attendees can 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 can be purchased. All beers will be sold in cans for the Alice Cooper concert.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Maples said. “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.”
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.
“This weekend is really the culmination of legislation that was introduced through the general assembly last year,” Maples said. “I know we focus a lot about football and basketball, but really, it was brought about by our local legislators recognizing the fact that we had not been able to attract certain entertainment groups here at Thompson-Boling Arena because we didn’t offer 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.
“Now, had it not gotten passed, I’m not going to get into the economic impact that would cost us,” Maples said.
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.”
Chancellor Donde Plowman assigned a task force at the start of her term on July 1 to determine the feasibility of alcohol sales at the start of the 2019 football season.
“A lot will depend upon how this goes tomorrow night. We want to see how logistically it works, any issue,” Maples said. “I think it’ll be a good test run for us.”
Maples said he doesn’t foresee any issues with Saturday night’s alcohol sales, but said changes will be made after this first event to accommodate any issues. Aramark corporate staff will be on site to help with the concert and UTPD security staff trained to handle issues with intoxication and underage drinking. At this time, additional security has not been hired.
"We staff this building very well. We believe we’ve adequate staff to do what we’ve got to do," Maples said. "Again, test run, we find out that that might not be the case and we’ll add additional security. But right now, we feel very confident we’ve got ample security to do what we need to do."
For Maples, a success Saturday night would include positive feedback, a good handling of the volume of buyers and overall good behavior from attendees.
“We’ll be on the lookout as people exiting. If we feel someone may be a little bit too intoxicated, we’ll take ample measures at that point,” Maples said. “It happens every day at restaurants, at bars. Again, I think some of the limits we’ve got here will not lend itself to over consumption.”