More schools are mixing beer, football at stadiums

Citadel football fans will be able to buy beer at Johnson Hagood Stadium for the first time this season. (File photo)

Citadel football fans at the Bulldogs' home opener against Newberry on Sept. 2 will find something new at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

A beer garden.

The military school will sell beer during football games for the first time this season. Beer sales will be limited to a 500-person "beer garden" tent inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The tent will be located in the southeast corner of the stadium, where aging stands were demolished this summer. There will be a three-beer limit per patron, and Citadel cadets of legal age (21) will not be able to buy beer in the tent.

Beer-drinking will be limited to the beer garden and will not be allowed in the stands, according to the plan presented by athletic director Jim Senter to a Board of Visitors committee on Tuesday. The BOV approved beer sales earlier this summer.

Senter said the decision to sell beer at football games is less about revenue and more about the fan experience.

"Everybody thinks that we want to do this because of revenue," Senter said. "But the truth is we want to provide the same kind of amenities that fans expect now at sporting events, like at the RiverDogs or Stingrays or Battery games.

"It's becoming more prevalent in college venues, and it's not so much about the money as it is about the fan experience."

The Citadel, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina sold beer at baseball games last season, but it appears The Citadel is the first Division I school in the state to sell beer at football games.

Senter said The Citadel will partner with Southern Eagle Distributing and Top Shelf Catering to provide beverages and food in the beer garden. The Citadel will split net profits "50-50" with its partners, Senter said.

The beer garden will feature two TVs for fans to watch games, and bartenders to serve beer. Patrons will be limited to three 12-ounce beers using a wristband system.

Though Citadel cadets of legal drinking age were allowed to buy beer during baseball games at Riley Park, they will not be able to purchase beer at football games.

"The biggest challenge for us is that we have 2,300 cadets who are required to go to the football games," Senter said. "A baseball game is much less attended and we don't make them go to baseball games. Our thought was,  we'll be conservative and offer this to our fans to start with, and see how things go from there."

Purdue, Boston College and Ohio University are among schools that decided this summer to sell beer at football games this season. As of last season, there were about 40 Division I schools selling beer at football games. Clemson and South Carolina do not sell beer at football games.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-967-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC