The first year of general seating beer sales at Memorial Stadium saw revenue exceed University of Illinois expectations by at least a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Illini athletics officials had predicted the season total to be in the low six figures, but realized $488,115 in beer sales instead. “I think we were pleasantly surprised with it,” UI senior associate athletic director Jason Lener told The News-Gazette of Champaign.
The majority of that revenue goes to concessionaire Spectra, which provides the beer and the personnel to sell it, and IU's cut will further be reduced by the extra security hired to work game days. That said, the number of fan arrests (one) and ejections (15) this season was consistent with past years, according to IU police. The police department conducted inspections to ensure that the staff members selling beer were following serving guidelines and found no major problems. They also did periodic checks in the stands.
The student section made up only 3 percent of total beer sales, with $16,475, Lener told The News-Gazette. The biggest week for student section sales came during the Nebraska game ($4,573), followed by Rutgers ($3,474) — which fell on Dads Day, when lots of dads were sitting in that section.
Stadium-wide, Illini fans preferred $7 light beer over the $8 premium brands, Blue Moon and Goose Island. Sales of Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra accounted for 95 percent of the total.
Kickoff time appeared to influence sales more than on-field success. The only night game on the 2019 Illinois schedule produced $124,085 in beer sales, though the Illini lost a close game, 42-38, to Nebraska. A 42-25 loss to Michigan brought the second-highest beer sales at $90,408, while a last-second, one-point upset victory over 31-point favorite Wisconsin placed third in terms of sales at $85,815. Of course, overall attendance was a major factor. A sparsely attended game against Northwestern over Thanksgiving weekend saw just $22,445 in beer sales.
“The more people that are there, the more money we make,” Lener said. “The hope is that the program continues to improve and with more people coming to our games we see that number increasing every year.”