UNO To Sell Beer At New On-Campus Arena

Baxter Arena drawing. (Courtesy of UNO Athletics)
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September 22, 2015 - 6:45am

Beginning this fall, The University of Nebraska at Omaha will join other universities from around the country that sell beer during sporting events on campus.


There are 32 Division-I universities that serve beer during athletic events, 25 are smaller mid-major schools. Baxter Arena at the University of Nebraska at Omaha will be the newest addition to that list.

This isn’t the first time beer will be sold at UNO games. But now that UNO hockey and basketball games will be played at Baxter, it’s the first time beer will be sold on UNO’s dry campus outside of alumni events. Fans who went to see the Mavs play hockey at CenturyLink Center last season could buy a beer at the game, but that was a downtown, privately owned arena, not a college campus.

Baxter Arena is being built on UNO’s south campus, across from Aksarben Village. UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts says there were no clear cut plans when approaching the sale of alcohol during games. There also wasn’t a directive from the Board of Regents, which oversees all four campuses in the University of Nebraska system.

Trev Alberts is in his sixth year as athletic director at UNO. (Photo courtesy of UNO Athletics)

“There really wasn’t a hard and fast policy and ultimately the decision was that each campus would be allowed to sort of create their own vision on what their need to be,” Alberts said.

Since there’s no universal policy from the regents, Alberts says UNO was able to explore what would be best for their fans. He says what happens on other campuses doesn’t affect the Omaha campus, at least in this regard.

“The Omaha market has an expectation that it will be available. I don’t know what the Lincoln market or the Kearney market or expectation is.”

Mike Cera is the general manager at Baxter Arena. He says his job is clear.

“Our goal as a staff is to make sure we’re providing the most enjoyable experience in the safest possible environment,” Cera said. “So when I have events that that come in we’re going to staff them according to attendance and the type of audience that may be coming regardless of whether we’re serving alcohol or not.”

He says Mav hockey fans, some of whom have attended hockey games for years have been served beer, so it’s an amenity they expect.

“The thought process goes into what have one of our fans been given in the past and how do we continue that fan experience from what they’ve had.”

George Van Horn works in the athletic department at the University of Akron in Ohio, a school that’s been selling beer at games since 2012. Van Horn says one way to keep people from over drinking during the game, charge more money.

“It’s not inexpensive but it’s not too expensive – that really does discourage students from buying a beer. We will never have $1 beer night or $2 beer night here on campus,” Van Horn said. “We thought we would do at a very responsible way you know you’re going to discourage somebody from coming into the game and buying ten beers at a game I don’t think most people are going to spend $65 the to drink 10 twelve ounce beers.”

Van Horn says once the decision was made to sell beer during games, there were fewer problems inside the stadium. He says just like the athletes playing the game, better training and proper technique helped his team stay ahead of trouble.

“So each concession stand just like a system has a team captain that’s running that concession stand and someone who’s in charge. They’re watching that they’re watching the alcohol sales they can keep an eye on who’s coming back more often than not we have people who are watching them to are they buying that beer, passing that beer off the somebody then get right back in line.”

UNO's Alberts says making sure fans are not over-served is a priority.

“We think we’ve hired industry specific expertise that can really help us on every employee that works at Baxter arena. (They) will have a very specific educational piece on how to identify people who may have been over served.”

Alberts says selling beer at Baxter will allow UNO to help pay off debt faster, as well. UNO’s Athletic Department is on the hook for half of the $81 million it cost to build Baxter.

Ultimately though, Alberts says selling beer at Baxter is about giving the fans what they want, which in this case includes a cold brew while watching a game.

Alberts says venues that don’t cater to market demands, don’t last.

”Virtually any venue within the Omaha market, serving beer is sort of the expectation, the risk of it, if you will. Not having a typical marketplace experience, I think that was it was too great to take on,” Alberts said.

UNO may be the first campus in Nebraska’s state system to offer beer sales during games, but it may not be the last. Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, where the Huskers play their home basketball games, is exploring selling beers as well.

Alberts says his colleagues in Lincoln should do what’s best for the fans Husker athletics, just as UNO did what he feels is best for fans of UNO Athletics.

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