LAWTON — Beer and sports have long been a popular mixture among fans, but the two haven’t been allowed to coexist at University of Oklahoma athletic venues.
Wednesday, somewhere, a foamy faction of people clinked glasses.
The OU Board of Regents approved a pilot program to sell beer at university athletic events, beginning with the upcoming OU men’s and women’s basketball seasons, as well as baseball and softball games this spring.
The program will be evaluated in May 2019, when regents will decide whether or not beer should be sold at football games in fall 2019.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione called it an experiment, and a necessary one considering demands the school has received for this amenity.
Administrators say beer sales will likely yield modest financial gain, which will be reinvested in facilities. The decision mostly revolves around enhancing spectator experience. Since 2013, attendance at FBS football games nationally has declined 7.6 percent, according to the NCAA.
“What we’re trying to do is realize the changing interests of the fan base,” Castiglione said. “It evolves. It’s constantly evolving. For us, it’s trying to recognize, as much as we can, there’s a broad interest. We’re not trying to build a model for one specific kind of fan. We want to be able to appeal to a wide variety of fans who want a variation of an experience.”
Texas began selling beer at football games in 2015 and 20 FBS schools have added their name to the list since. Oklahoma State is among the most recent, making the move this fall.
OU’s pilot program is covered under its contract with concessions provider Levy, an international company that also has a contract with
the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Castiglione said Levy’s feedback indicates OU’s net revenue from sales could range between $200,000 to $300,000 annually. That money would be funneled into athletic facility improvements, projects and other programs that should serve the fans.
OU's first opportunity to serve beer at a regular-season event is the women's basketball team's Nov. 9 home opener.