With beer, brats and “Jump Around,” Wisconsin football game day has a reputation as the most electric and thrilling atmosphere in the country. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my Wisconsin career and I’m sure every other fan could say the same.
This semester I had the incredible opportunity to photograph the football games. Working from the sidelines, I was there with the team for every touchdown and through a hard-fought but heartbreaking loss in Pasadena, Calif.
My knowledge of the game has improved from knowing touchdowns are good and so is Montee Ball to recognizing plays and learning every player’s name, face and number. Though I must remain neutral on the field, this year I’ve developed a new love for Badger football.
Given that I’m graduating and pursuing a career in the business world, this was probably my last year at Camp Randall with my camera in hand, but you can bet that I will be back.
However, I have one request: as a responsible, legal fan, please let me enjoy the game with a beer in my hand.
Fans love Wisconsin’s game day culture for the plethora of locally-brewed beer selections and the activities that follow. But in the past few years, under the watchful eye of the university, fans have become the center of complaints for rowdiness and extreme public drunkenness. But I have a solution to satisfy drunkies and grumpies alike: allow beer sales at Camp Randall.
Before you jump to conclusions and call me crazy, lets talk about incentives.
Wisconsinites love beer, and nothing will stop them from enjoying a crisp, mouthwatering brewskie on game day. Right now the fact beer isn’t allowed in the stadium incentivizes fans to either sneak flasks into the stadium or drink ridiculous amounts pre-gaming. The result is obnoxious, overly-intoxicated fans who leave just after “Jump Around” – if they can even hold off their hunger, tiredness or vomit for that long.
So what happens if you start selling beer at Camp Randall? You might think that it will give fans reason to consume more. Actually, empirical evidence says just the opposite.
In 2011, West Virginia University changed their policy to allow beer sales inside the stadium, and alcohol-related trouble fell while alcohol sales reached $500,000. From 2010 to 2011, the total number of game day arrests fell by 35 percent and the total number of alcohol cases fell by 43 percent.
Surprised? So were the WVU police, who were also expecting to see incidents rise.
On the flip side, Colorado State University in Fort Collins permitted beer sales in Hughes Stadium for more than 30 years, until 2004, when they stopped selling beer in an effort to curb alcohol abuse. They discovered alcohol problems were worse at tailgates outside the stadium than inside, and resumed beers sales in 2005.
It’s easier to see how this is possible after thinking about the incentives again. If fans know they will still have access to beer during the game, they won’t have to worry about drinking so much to create a buzz to last the whole game. They can pace their drinking and stay in control until the final second, or even stay for Bucky’s Fifth Quarter!
If you’re skeptical about the underage drinkers and those who will see this as an opportunity to drink twice as much, it’s true, that might happen. But the large revenues from beer sales will be able to offset costs for increasing security or implementing regulations such as carding, wrist-banding or restricting alcohol sales from student sections. If revenues from beer sales are high enough, they could potentially aid in keeping ticket prices low.
Last July, the University of Minnesota regents approved alcohol sales at the Golden Gophers’ stadium. Let’s not let the Gophers beat us to the punch and steal our game day glory.
We are consistently praised for our outstanding academics and our rousing game day atmosphere. So strap on your bibs and make a toast to keeping this reputation by showing our class and ability to truly enjoy ourselves responsibly in this great beer state.
Kelsey Fenton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in economics.