University lost money on stadium alcohol sales

Ready to sell beer
In this photo from Sept. 6, 2012, white tents have been set up to sell beer and wine on the west plaza of the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. Despite selling more than $900,000 worth of beer and wine, the University of Minnesota lost almost $16,000 last year on alcohol sales at home football games.
MPR Photo/Laura Yuen

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The University of Minnesota lost almost $16,000 last year on alcohol sales at home football games, despite selling more than $900,000 worth of beer and wine.

The school released the figures to The Associated Press after a records request, which showed it incurred significant expenses from its first season selling alcohol stadium-wide at TCF Bank Stadium. Those include hiring additional police and security officers, setting up tents and other facilities, and equipment rental. Roughly half of its revenues went directly to Philadelphia-based Aramark Corp., which had the contract to sell beer and wine.

The booze itself cost the university about $180,000.

Associate Athletic Director Tom McGinnis said the university never expected to turn a profit from alcohol sales. The Legislature passed a bill last April allowing the school to sell beer and wine so long as it was available to the general public.

"We wanted to make sure that it was a positive make experience for our fans," McGinnis said.

About $30,000 of the school's expenses were one-time costs to prepare the stadium -- from setting up ATMs to buying plants. That means if Gopher football fans buy as much booze in 2013 as they did last season, the school stands to pull in about $15,000 in profits.

But McGinnis said the university learned from its first year of alcohol sales and will make tweaks and cuts to boost profits for the 2013 football season. That could mean swapping kegged beer for bottles and cans and reducing staff, police and security. The school brought on 12 additional police officers and 12 other security employees to deal with any drinking-related problems -- costing the school an extra $47,000. McGinnis said they "erred on the side of safety."

The school may also adjust its contract with Aramark. That agreement was signed when the university only sold alcohol in premium seating at sports events, McGinnis said.

The state lawmaker who was pushing to extend alcohol sales to basketball and hockey games said the university will need to justify those costs. In the meantime, Rep. Dan Schoen, a suburban St. Paul Democrat, says he's backing off his bill that would allow beer and wine sales at Mariucci and Williams arenas -- at least until next session, if not longer.

"I think the average Minnesotan would have a very difficult time understanding how any business could do $900,000 in sales and lose $16,000 doing it," Schoen said. "With this information, we probably need to take a deeper look."

Associated Press writer Pat Condon contributed to this report.

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