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UNT hopes to brew revenue

Profile image for By Brett Vito and Jenna Duncan
By Brett Vito and Jenna Duncan

University of North Texas football fans will be able to buy beer in public sections of Apogee Stadium this fall for the first time, a move school officials believe will help grow athletics revenue and ticket sales.

UNT announced Thursday that the school will begin selling beer this season on the concourse level. The school previously only sold beer on Apogee’s restricted-access club and suite levels.

UNT received a liquor license for the entire venue when it opened three years ago, but never used it for alcohol sales to the general public.

“We’re in a market where most events — not just sporting events — have beer available for purchase,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said. “You have to be competitive when people are deciding how to spend their entertainment dollar. This will enable us to attract people who want a cold beer when they come to a game.”

Villarreal said beer will be sold only at Mean Green games and not at any high school games played there.

The school has been considering instituting beer sales at Apogee for the last several months and has studied the issues that go along with selling alcohol. Metzler’s Catering in Denton will manage sales at the stadium. Roy Metzler, the owner, was not available for comment Thursday.

UNT officials have plans in place for increased security at Apogee and believe that selling beer will ultimately make the environment at games safer. Several UNT students and fans tailgate and drink in the parking lots and grassy areas around Apogee before games.

UNT President Neal Smatresk and other school officials believe drinking in the parking lot is more dangerous for students than inside the stadium, where alcohol sales will be regulated.

“All things considered, I’m very happy with the decision,” Smatresk said. “We’re going to make the fan experience better, and I think it will help us to regulate and manage the drinking of our students in a more favorable fashion in a controlled environment.”

Since he arrived in February, Smatresk has spoken with several constituency groups about the proposed sales, and across the board he heard “a uniform ‘yes,’” he said.

Even when discussing the potential liabilities, Smatresk said there was no major internal opposition to the proposal. He and the athletics department also worked with the Office of Risk Management and UNT police to create the beer-sales plan.

UNT athletic department officials spoke with school officials from Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky and Houston about their experiences with beer sales at football games in the last few months.

“We wanted to know what they see on gameday,” Villarreal said. “By talking to them and then combining it with the research we did, we feel like we have a good handle on it.”

Southern Methodist University will also start selling alcohol at football games this fall, joining other programs throughout the state that already sell alcohol like Texas Tech and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Revenues will go to the UNT athletic department, and school officials believe beer will have a dramatic financial impact.

“One of the reasons we are doing this is to create new revenue,” Villarreal said. “It’s hard to put a number on what it will generate because if the fans come in and buy a beer, they might also buy a hot dog or a hat.”

UNT is hoping beer sales will drive up attendance as well as revenue.

The school set a new attendance record last season when the Mean Green drew 126,182 fans for six home games.

UNT has set a new home-game attendance record in two of the last three years and believes selling beer will help continue that trend, while maintaining a safe environment.

“It is our intention to retain the family atmosphere,” Villarreal said. “People go to Rangers games and Cowboys games and take their families. This is no different. While we want to expand our offerings, we don’t in any way want to diminish or encroach upon the family atmosphere or family entertainment we provide at a college football game.”

UNT just hopes a few more fans will enjoy that atmosphere this season when it sells beer to its entire fan base for the first time.

“Now that they are selling beer in the stadium, there are no excuses or saying, ‘I will stay out here [outside the stadium] for the first quarter and have a couple of beers,’” UNT coach Dan McCarney said. “Now you can come in and have a beer. Don’t be late for the kickoff.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 or via Twitter at @jennafduncan.