Beer and baseball: A worthy combination for Arizona
In season four of “The Simpsons,” Homer Simpson was arrested for drunk driving and lost his driver’s license.
Marge convinced him to give up beer for one month. With the struggle getting harder by the day, Homer attended a baseball game to try and take his mind off of sobriety.
As it turns out, he’s the only person in the stands NOT drinking a beer.
“I never realized how boring this game is,” Homer said, as the ball boys argued over who should get a stray beach ball off the field.
Now imagine a baseball game at the UA. It’s a blazing hot Sunday afternoon — the perfect time for a nice, cold brew.
Except the stands are empty, and beer isn’t for sale.
This was the scene at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium, the previous home of the UA baseball program. The stadium was on campus, sitting at the corner of Sixth Street and National Championship Drive, so proximity was not an issue. The stadium was a staple of the UA campus for 40-plus years, but it had lost some of its allure.
The team was still good — making the NCAA Tournament in — but the stadium was desolate at best.
When the Wildcats ended their tenure at Frank Sancet Stadium with a final home game on May 29, 2011, against the University of Washington, there were 1,003 fans in attendance. The Field had a capacity of 6,500.
By comparison, at Arizona’s new stomping grounds in Hi Corbett Field, there were 4,386 fans in attendance for the Wildcats’ game against ASU on Tuesday.
Peter Richmond, a sports writer and New York Times-bestselling author, once said: “Beer needs baseball, and baseball needs beer — it has always been thus.”
Hi Corbett has beer, and its attendance has thrived.
The correlation between beer sales and attendance might be coincidental, but ever since Arizona picked itself up and moved to Hi Corbett Field, adding beer to its concessions in the process, things changed.
“It was one piece of the puzzle,” said UA athletic director Greg Byrne. “We knew people like to drink a beer at a baseball game. And, you know, being off campus, we thought that was something that would be another positive aspect of people being able to come to the games. It’s gone very well overall.”
When it comes to college sports, Arizona is a basketball town first, football second. But beer isn’t sold at McKale Center or Arizona Stadium.
The baseball program doesn’t quite earn the same profit as Sean Miller or Rich Rodriguez’s squads, so head coach Andy Lopez and the baseball program needed something to set themselves apart.
In fact, Byrne said that even after winning the College World Series last year and being second in the West in attendance for most the year, the season was still a net loss.
But fans are pouring into Hi Corbett in profoundly greater numbers than they did two years ago. In the final 68 games at Frank Sancet, there was an average of 980 fans. In the first 68 at Hi Corbett — 2,651.
“Let me tell you, the beer sales at Hi Corbett certainly make the game more interesting,” said Karin Mattel, a vendor at Hi Corbett. “It’s really helped out the sales in regards to attendance, and we haven’t had any problems.”
Matel said Blue Moon and Dos Equis are the two most popular beers sold.
Much of the profit from beer sales goes into the gross revenues for the baseball program, Byrne said.
“The concession area gets a piece of it, then we get a piece of it,” he said.
The Daily Wildcat tried to contact John Perrin, the athletic department’s senior financial officer, about revenue figures. Perrin did not return multiple phone calls and e-mails.
Arizona wasn’t the first school to add beer to its menu, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Even with the addition of beer to football games at Minnesota and UTEP in 2012, CBSSports.com reported that only 21 FBS school sell beer at football games. That means 103 college football teams don’t sell beer at games, including the Wildcats.
Athletic director Greg Byrne said the UA has no plan to add beer at Arizona Stadium, citing that it was a decision by both the university and the athletic department. The location of the stadium and the size of the average crowd are the two main reasons why beer isn’t on tap at football games.
But even at West Virginia they only sell beer at football and the occasional soccer game. Most schools cater their decisions to what best fits the state and the facilities, Luck said.
Well, except for Louisville. Travel to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and you can buy some bourbon if you have the urge. Oh, and at the spring football game this year, the Cardinals had $1 beers.
They said it
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck:
“Beer is a major part of college athletics. First of all, you have to accept that fact. Anywhere you go in the country, with maybe the exception of BYU or Baylor or somewhere where they don’t drink out of religious reason.
“But, everywhere else, it’s a major part of the culture and we accepted that. And then we decided it makes more sense to control it than it does to just try and prevent it from seeping into your fanbase.”