University of Wyoming Cowboys home games are a longtime tradition for Wyoming residents and students of the university, but the first home game of the 2017 season represented a departure from many of the old ways.
Alcohol, for the first time, was officially served inside War Memorial Stadium, which entailed a number of other changes.
Tailgating, previously allowed until the end of the third quarter, is no longer allowed past kickoff. Those purchasing beer and wine now wear blue wristbands with tearable tabs, limiting each person to four drinks. And reentry into the stadium is forbidden.
One result of these changes was less work for the UW Police Department, UWPD Chief Mike Samp said.
“We would categorize the first game as slower than an average opening game,” he said. “I looked back and looked at about the last 10 years, and as an average, we’ve arrested or cited an average of about 15 people at each of those games and on this game, we actually cited or arrested less than 10.”
Three of UWPD’s alcohol-related medical calls were very early in the game, Samp said, so they were likely the consequence of drinking off campus or outside the stadium during the tailgate.
He added the no-reentry policy seemed to reduce alcohol-related incidents while allowing UWPD to focus on the stadium interior, where the most people were.
“By and large, things seemed to go very well,” he said. “ … Folks stayed longer into the game. They didn’t take off at half and go do other things. They stayed in the game and I think that was helpful from a game perspective as well as from a fan perspective, making it a very positive environment.”
During the game, UW sold roughly 7,854 beers and 337 cups of wine.
Fans were generally appreciative of the new beer sales.
“I think it’s a great source of revenue for the University of Wyoming,” said Teyllr Lenz, a long-time Cowboys fan. “I’ve been here basically the whole game and it looks like sales have done really well, but it doesn’t look like a lot of people have overdone it.”
Shane Viktorin, another long-time fan, said the $7 and $8 price-tags on drinks were a little too steep, but also he was enthusiastic about finally being able to have a drink in War Memorial.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “Should have been happening a long time ago.”
Fans were less appreciative of the no-reentry policy.
“My biggest problem (will be) during the winter months, when it is frigid and you need to go warm up, go get your coat, go warm up in your pickup,” said Kylie Hunter. “You’ve got to have a reentry policy in Laramie, Wyoming.”
Lenz said she did not like what the new policy meant for the future of tailgating.
“From the standpoint of somebody who’s trying to sell beer, it’s smart,” she said. “But if you’re the thousands of consumers out here, I’m sure most of the people aren’t a fan of it.”
Bill Sparks, senior associate athletic director for business operations, said he acknowledged the new changes would not be immediately popular with everyone.
“This is a change and it will be a culture change for a while,” he said. “But it was a requirement in order to get approval from our Board of Trustees and our president in order to sell the beer.”
Roxie’s on Grand was the exclusive alcohol vendor for the opening game — and will be the exclusive vendor for the six other home games scheduled this season.
Specialized dispensers, purchased by the Athletic Department and designed by the Bottoms Up company, were used to save beer and time. The plastic cups used during the game each have a hole in the bottom, covered by a magnet. The cup is placed on top of the dispenser nozzle and is filled from the bottom up.
Taking just four seconds to fill, the beer tech saves vendors’ time, allowing for more rapid transactions, and saves beer that would otherwise be lost through foam.
“In a normal bar situation, you lose about 15 percent of your beer through foam that pours out,” Sparks said. “In the Bottoms Up process, you only lose about 2 percent, so you get a lot more beer and a lot more pours out of every keg of beer.”
Revenue brought in by alcohol sales at UW games will be split by Roxie’s and UW. Whatever sum is left after state taxes are paid and the cost of the cups — 38 cents each — is subtracted, UW receives the lion’s share of 55 percent, while Roxie’s takes 45 percent.
The Athletic Department was left with a little more than $30,000, which was lower than expected, but a figure members of the department are happy with.
Sparks said he based expectations on national averages, which suggest 50 percent of game attendees will purchase alcohol, averaging two drinks each. About 4,000 people purchased beer or wine during the game Saturday.
The first $30,000 made in alcohol sales was pledged to the Division of Student Affairs to support various programs including alcohol education resources.
The new policies, while shooting for higher revenue, could also reduce binge drinking, Sparks said.
“If we can get fewer and fewer people to actually bring in hard alcohol and we can get people to come into the games earlier and not go back out at halftime and slam down several drinks out in the parking lot … then our hope is we can successfully accomplish our goal of reducing the binge drinking by some percentage and also reduce the concealed alcohol by some percentage,” he said.