IU first introduced alcohol at football games in 2019, and the success of that pilot program has led to continuous expansion at sporting events since.
The suds continue to flow inside Memorial Stadium this year, along with soccer games at Bill Armstrong Stadium, and baseball and softball games on campus as well.
But when alcohol was first served in 2019, then Director of Athletics Fred Glass said he wasn’t sure if introducing a little extra juice to the up close and intense environment inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall made sense.
“The way passions run in there with the intimacy of the court and the proximity of all the people, I think that may not be a good idea,” Glass told the IndyStar in 2019.
But since that time, the data coming back to IU on beer has been positive, along with the dollars both from sales and sponsorships. Glass’ successor Scott Dolson says the introduction of beer sales for basketball games is on the table.
“We’ll continue to evaluate, and I’ll say that it has gone extremely well to date,” Dolson said. “Data really shows from the time we implemented it the first year at Memorial Stadium that our incidents actually went down, our alcohol-related incidents, and I think controlling the environment has proved to be successful.
“We’re currently looking at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to see if that’s something we may or may not do, but I am a big proponent of making certain that we’re keeping up with what our fans would like to see from a fan experience standpoint.”
Modernizing the fan experience has led to other recent changes for basketball, including the introduction of a DJ this year.
And just in the last month IU has announced beer sponsorships from both Coors Light and Upland for football games.
But adding alcohol to an indoor environment where emotions run deep is a bit more delicate. Indiana has had issues in the past with objects being thrown on the floor, and there is little to separate the fans from the court.
The trends seem to be inevitable at this point, and while Dolson understands the unique considerations for basketball, he believes the success with beer sales at other sports is helping to pave the path.
“The feedback we received from our fans, even going back to the spring with baseball and softball has been really, really well received and handled really well,” he said.
“So we’ll continue to grow that and to look at ways that we can maximize that opportunity, but keeping in mind responsibility drinking, managing the process in a way that we don’t put any other fan in a precarious position by having alcohol served.”
Other schools in the Big Ten already have beer sales for basketball, including Purdue, Iowa, Rutgers and Illinois. And the trend seems to be continuing to go in that direction.
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