Beer sales: Ears Up gains on Busch Light

Zachary Simon, Reporter

Newly-introduced alcohol options at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium are proving to be a success, amplifying many fans’ game day experience while adding an additional source of revenue for South Dakota State University.

Through the first six home games, the university sold 33,948 cans of beer, according to Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of Student Affairs. Almost 10,000 of these sales occurred Oct. 29 during the Hobo Day game vs. Indiana State.

Busch Light is by far the most popular beer, selling over 7,300 cans. However, the Fernson Ears Up beer sold a whopping 4,247 cans since its debut  on Hobo Day.

Ears Up was the number one seller at Saturday’s game against Illinois State with 537 units moved.

“People are enjoying the beer if they choose,” Jeff Holm, senior associate AD for Facilities and Operations, said. “Lines have not taken very long and we have not had more alcohol related incidents than years past. It actually may be down.”

In order to help the games run smoothly, beer sales are restricted to the first three quarters of the game and buyers must wear a wristband, obtained by presenting their ID. 

The South Dakota Board of Regents also mandates that events must include at least one alcohol-free zone, and that alcohol sales remain separate from general concessions.

Alcoholic beverages have been available for purchase to fans in premium seating since the stadium opened in 2016. Before this season, the Board of Regents prohibited alcohol sales to the general public.

Student government leaders worked with the university to begin an initiative to allow beer sales to the public. This initiative spread to other universities in South Dakota, and in June of this year, the regents voted unanimously to allow all six universities to sell alcohol to the public.

Before the season, SDSU placed a focus on improving the game day experience for fans, while also preparing for any challenges that implementing alcohol sales might bring. 

“We’ve done a fair amount of research, following what other programs have done and making calls to other programs,” Holm said.

SDSU and its vendor, Sodexo, have also responded to the challenges involved with implementing beer sales, including keeping the beer cool, moving lines quickly and staffing points of sale.

“There was some concern with staffing, which has been a challenge with food service, but groups have stepped up to respond to the need for personnel,”  Wermedal said. “The supply chain has also been just fine.”

With beers selling for $7 or $8, the university has earned between $250,000 and $300,000 in revenue. Part of the revenue goes to Sodexo while the rest is split between the Athletics Department and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) programs.

Although the money earned from alcohol sales provides an extra revenue stream for the Athletics Department, the primary focus remains on elevating the game day experience for fans and maintaining a safe and enjoyable environment. 

“Our biggest goal is making sure we provide great customer service and a great game day experience,” Justin Sell, Director of Athletics, said.