A beer and a ballgame. The two so often go hand in hand.
The ability to buy a beer at Finley Stadium and watch the Chattanooga Football Club play is a major reason why the amateur soccer team averaged more than 4,000 fans a game this summer.
One of the club's sponsor’s is Big River Grille & Brewing Works and at every home game the two beer lines set up at opposite ends of the home stands were regularly 30 or 40 people long. On a few occasions, the lines were long enough that they met in the middle.
“Beer’s something the people like to enjoy at the game, and we ran out a couple of times,” CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said after the season. “That’s something we need to do a better job of next season, making sure that we have enough kegs available because we’ve seen that the demand is there.”
That demand would likely be there at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football games, as well.
Staff File Photo by Danielle Moore Fans watch the Chattanooga Football and Atlas from the stands at Finley Stadium.
Because Finley is an off-campus stadium, UTC could allow beer to be sold throughout the stadium. Instead, it is limited to the Stadium Club, where patrons can drink a cold one, but they can’t take it with them to their seats.
“I like the system we have now because the alcohol sales occur in a controlled environment so that our fans who wish to purchase beer can do that in the Stadium Club, and corporate box owners can certainly bring alcohol into their boxes,” UTC Chancellor Roger Brown said. “But I prefer not to have alcohol sales in the general admission area.”
The reason for that, Brown said, is because he wants all UTC sporting events to have a family-friendly atmosphere. He said that might change if alcohol could be consumed in the stands.
Athletic director Rick Hart said another thing to consider is the message beer sales might send to UTC students who are cautioned often about underage drinking and the risks that come with alcohol abuse.
The NCAA doesn’t allow alcohol sales at any of its championships, but it's up to each school or venue to decide whether to sell it during the regular season. In Tennessee, fans can buy beer at Tennessee State games at LG Field and at University of Memphis games at the Liberty Bowl.
The Liberty Bowl began selling beer last season as a way to offset operating losses. According to published reports, in the Tigers’ first game, against Ole Miss, which had an announced attendance of 45,207, beer sales totaled $114,576.
The UTC athletic department, which has had to make budget cuts several years in a row, could use the increased money that would likely come with selling beer at games — both in terms of ticket sales and possible revenue sharing.
“I agree that there would likely be a demographic or clientele that would be enticed to attend our events if they knew they could get a beer while they were at the game,” Hart said, “but I think most colleges have accepted that they’ll have to do without that.”
The subject of allowing beer sales at Mocs games at Finley comes up from time to time, Brown said, and has been discussed “quite vigorously” among the leadership at UTC. Brown said he recognizes that there is “trade-off” and he's comfortable with the decision he’s made.
“Of course we need more revenue and I fully believe that, but what I'm hoping is that our aggressive push for increased sponsorships and increased marketing opportunities at our games, as well as increased ticket sales, will help very much in our revenue picture,” he said. “I will accept that trade-off and keep the environment the way it is for the time being.”
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...