C of C to sell beer at baseball games

Baseball fans at College of Charleston games at Patriots Point will be able to buy beer as of May 8. (Leroy Burnell/Staff)

The College of Charleston will sell beer at baseball games at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant beginning May 8, becoming the first public state university to sell alcohol to the general public at athletic events.

The school will join about 90 other universities across the country in selling alcohol at games, according to Cougars athletic director Joe Hull. He estimates the school will earn about $5 per adult at each game from beer sales.

“We’ve been looking at the issue for more than a year trying to determine what to do and in the end, we think this will enhance the game-day experience for our fans,” Hull said Wednesday. “We have fans that come to games now that when they get to the concession stand are surprised we don’t sell beer.

“I think minor league baseball, Major League Baseball sell beer and now there are more than 90 colleges selling it. We are confident this is going to work out.”

When asked Wednesday, officials at The Citadel, Clemson and South Carolina said there are no plans to begin selling beer at their on-campus facilities. SEC schools, including USC, are prohibited by rule from selling alcohol to the general public at their facilities.

Hull said alcohol sales will add a new revenue stream to Cougar athletics, and that the school could decide to sell beer at other events, including basketball games at TD Arena and soccer games, in the future.

“Hopefully, it’ll bring some folks over to watch us play,” baseball coach Monte Lee said. “I think it’s a win-win for our program and for the College of Charleston athletic department.”

Hull acknowledged that the perception of selling beer at a college game could be troublesome.

“When there are 90 other schools out there doing it already, it wasn’t that difficult of a decision to make,” Hull said. “The last four or five years a lot of people are doing it.

“The only negative we see is the perception,” he said. “Some people will say that’s not what has typically been done in the past, so don’t do it. But I think the perception is that this is normal, it’s what a lot of schools are doing and it’s OK to do it.”

Hull said the Cougars sold beer during a soccer game at the Charleston Battery’s Blackbaud Stadium last fall.

“We have a sense for how it would go from that experience,” he said.

Hull said baseball games will have extra security for the final few games.

“We’ll probably overdo it a little bit early on to make sure there are no issues,” Hull said. “We think doing it now will help us prepare to do it more broadly in the fall.”

Fans over the legal drinking age of 21 years will be asked to show proper identification and receive a wristband at Patriots Point.

Customers will be allowed to purchase two beers per trip, with college students, of legal age, limited to a maximum of three beers per game. Sales will cease at the end of the sixth inning. Hull said he’s not yet sure what brand of beer will be sold.

Here’s how other state schools handle beer sales:

There are no beer sales to the general public at Citadel football games, though patrons in club-level suites at Johnson Hagood Stadium can purchase alcohol. Neither is beer sold at Citadel baseball games at Riley Park; however, when The Citadel and Charleston RiverDogs have a doubleheader, beer sales sometimes begin before The Citadel game ends.

“I honestly can’t tell you that we have talked about it,” said Citadel AD Jim Senter. “It has not been on our radar screen as an option. I don’t see us doing that, but I understand why people are and that it is trending that way in our industry.”

At Clemson, a spokesman said there are no plans to sell beer at on-campus facilities. There will be beer sold at basketball games next season at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, according to the school’s rental agreement with the arena, the Tigers’ home for the 2015-16 season.

As for South Carolina and the SEC, the league plans to review its alcohol policy for neutral-site games and home games off-campus. Many SEC schools do allow alcohol sales in private suites and club areas of stadiums and arenas.

According to USA Today, these schools were among 21 that sold alcohol to the public at on-campus football stadiums last season: Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisville, Minnesota, Nevada, North Texas, SMU, Syracuse, Toledo, Troy, Tulane, UNLV and UTEP.

These schools sold alcohol at off-campus football stadiums in 2014: UConn, Georgia St., Hawaii, Massachusetts, Memphis, Miami, San Diego State, South Alabama, South Florida, Temple and Texas-San Antonio.

Andrew Miller contributed to this report.