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Penn State Trustees Approve Beer Sales to General Fanbase During Home Football Games

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What is the largest taproom in Center County?

Very soon the Beaver Stadium will be on match day.

The Penn State Board of Trustees voted Friday, May 28, to approve a plan to sell beer to the adult fanbase during Nittany Lion home games and other stadium events. No official start date was given on Friday, although athletic director Pat Kraft has said in the past that with trustee approval, beer sales could begin as early as the scheduled home game against Northwestern on Oct. 1.

Since 2016, Penn State has allowed alcohol in club suites and other semi-private areas of Beaver Stadium. But this is the first time alcohol sales have been opened up to the general fan base, much like a trip to a professional sports park in the state.

The original proposal included the sale of hard seltzers, but administrators approved a change to the plan Friday that would remove seltzers from the menu. A task force will also be established to evaluate the program and its impact on the community.

Kraft said the reasons for the open beer sales plan are to provide “a significant improvement to the fan experience and game day atmosphere.” He told administrators that in the most recent fan poll about improvements to Beaver Stadium, it was a feature most respondents said they wanted to see.

Kraft also said it’s a trend sweeping through major college sports, noting that there is experience from peer schools showing there has been a reduction in alcohol-related incidents in college football stadiums serving alcohol on-site. “We think this can really help some situations on race day,” Kraft said.

Penn State would become the ninth of 14 Big Ten Conference schools to offer some sort of stadium-wide alcohol sale.

Five administrators opposed the plan, mostly out of concern about negatively affecting the matchday experience for families with children.

Valerie Detwiler, who noted that 36.4 percent of respondents to a survey question about the issue said they would definitely or probably be against the sale of beer, wondered what happens to their game-day experience.

“Spending a day at Beaver Stadium is one of the best ways to breed young Nittany Lions,” Detwiler told the change. “Think back to your own memories of your first trip to the stadium… How proud alumni are excited to bring their children to the stadium from an early age in the hope that they too will be a Penn Stater.

“This is the best advertisement we could have ever hoped for, and it has clearly served us well. We did all this without selling alcohol in the stadium,” Detwiler said, noting that fans who want to drink before and after the game can still do so outside the stadium. But, she concluded, “selling beer in the stadium will negatively impact the matchday experience for families.”

Trustee Brandon Short, however, supported the motion, claiming that he is confident that Penn State fans will handle the new privilege responsibly. And, Short added, there’s an element of honesty involved.

“Why would we think that people who sit on club chairs can drink responsibly, but the average fan can’t?” asked Short. “What do we say to our fans when we think Ohio State fans can drink responsibly, but Penn State fans can’t. I believe that Penn State is a special place, and we can do what any other school can do, but we can do better.

“And if we’re wrong, we reserve the right to go as it was” and kill the project.

Under the approved plan, 16-ounce beers will not be sold at the existing permanent concession stands. Instead, mobile stations will be placed “strategically” throughout the stadium, but not in areas directly adjacent to the student area, Kraft points out. Student card holders who are 21 or older are allowed to purchase.

Anyone making a purchase is required to show ID for age verification and they are also given a wristband to help stadium security verify in real time that only those who have passed an age verification are drinking.

“If you don’t have a wristband, you can’t have a drink in your hand,” Kraft said.

There will also be a “secret shopper” program to ensure all age verification protocols are followed, according to information presented to the trustees ahead of Friday’s vote.

All beer sales will stop at the end of the third quarter.

In addition, the university has pledged that all involved beer-serving employees — most of whom will be employees of Oak View Group, a company that supports concessions at a number of major stadium locations — serving beer will be RAMP trained and certified. In fact, the athletic department staff said most already had that certification.

“These are professional beer tenders who work at Citizens Bank Park, Allentown and other locations,” Carl Heck, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Capital Projects, Events and Facilities, told a board committee earlier this month.

Proceeds from alcohol sales will be used for deferred maintenance projects at the stadium.

However, the sports department has forecast a small net loss in the first year, mainly because there is no full season to recoup startup costs, including 140 new mobile outlets that can be used at each concession stand. Expenditure for the first year is estimated at $2.4 million, with revenues close but slightly less, Heck told the committee this month.

Penn State expects beer sales gains in the second year and beyond.

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