Newly approved alcohol sales hope to keep Gophers “competitive” for fans

Sales will now be permitted in Williams and Mariucci arenas, joining TCF Bank Stadium.

Williams Arena as seen on Monday, June 17, 2019.

Image by Tony Saunders

Williams Arena as seen on Monday, June 17, 2019.

by Chad Faust

Gophers fans can expect to see more changes inside Williams Arena and 3M Arena at Mariucci this upcoming year, as the University of Minnesota will now be allowed to sell beer and wine during home games.

The University’s Board of Regents voted Friday to allow the arenas to sell alcohol during games starting in the 2019-2020 season. The Athletic Department expects that selling beer and wine at the new venues will create an extra $250,000 in annual revenue after $70,000 is invested to get the venues prepared to sell alcohol.

Prior to this resolution, alcohol was only sold in premium seating at both Williams and 3M at Mariucci; the new change allows fans in all seating areas to purchase alcohol.

Additionally, fans who have access to the club room in Maturi Pavilion for wrestling and volleyball games will also be able to purchase beer and wine. Hard alcohol is not authorized to be sold at any venue.

However, the change doesn’t extend to women’s hockey games at Ridder Arena, as the facility does not have a liquor license.

Minnesota State Statute prohibits the Board of Regents from holding liquor licenses for events at more than seven locations within University property, excluding TCF Bank Stadium and Northop Auditorium. Along with Williams Arena and 3M Arena at Mariucci, Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul holds a liquor license. The rest of licenses are dispersed between student centers on the Morris and Duluth campuses as well as at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

The regents discussed the proposal last month but didn’t come to a decision about the potential change until Friday. The proposal passed unanimously.

Alcohol sales at hockey games and basketball games will be similar to operations at TCF Bank Stadium, with sales cut off at halftime for basketball and during the second intermission of hockey games. Fans will be limited to two beverages per transaction.

“Our number one goal will always remain to provide a safe and fan-friendly environment, but we also need to continue to be competitive in the amenities we offer our fans,” Athletic Director Mark Coyle said.

The shift in selling alcohol at various venues comes with a number of other changes as the Gophers try to combat decreased attendance across sporting events. In 2018, Gophers football games had the lowest average attendance since the team moved into TCF Bank Stadium in 2009.

Subsequently, the University decided to lower the season-ticket price for both men’s basketball and men’s hockey games in an attempt to make sporting events more affordable for their fans, with the hope that a declining sporting attendance in the past few years could rise.

The board approved alcohol sales for general seating at TCF Bank Stadium in 2012. It had been offered in premium seating since the stadium opened. However, the Gophers didn’t see a significant increase in attendance in the following years.

Two years ago, Minnesota added the Gopher Loyalty Program which gives fans perks like stadium concession discounts and access to exclusive events.

The Gophers also established a fan advisory board in 2017 to give fans the more of a voice in how to improve the fan experience.