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NDSU: Fan experience, not revenue, prime motivator behind beer at Bison football games

Bison athletic director says a few hurdles remain before a decision is made for alcohol sales at 2022 games

NDSUfargodome
North Dakota State captains Logan McCormick, Cordell Volson, Phoenix Sproles and Michael Tutsie ready to take the field for the coin toss against East Tennessee State during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome last December.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — North Dakota State took a look around the 10 other Missouri Valley Football Conference schools and saw a similar beverage in each school’s concession stand. The athletic department took a gander at professional sports and saw the same thing.

It looked at a survey of NDSU season ticket holders that was sent out after the 2021 season and saw that many fans had the same request: A beer at the football game. The school has never made it available.

“So we’re trying to mirror as many of those opportunities as possible,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen. “Alcohol sales was one of those. We’re just trying to enhance the experience in a number of different ways and this is just one element.”

That one element went before the Fargo Dome Authority at its monthly meeting Tuesday and the board appeared to be in favor of changing the language in the Fargodome’s yearly lease with NDSU to allow alcohol to be sold at games.

No vote was taken because more details between NDSU and the dome need to be worked out like staffing and the revenue split of concessions between the two parties. Larsen on Wednesday sounded like an administrator who didn’t think they would be impassable barriers.

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“There are still some things we need to work through, so this is not a done deal by any stretch for this upcoming season,” he said. “Ideally we would love to have a decision, if we are to move forward, in the next month or so. I think the dome would agree in terms of staffing and infrastructure things. If it happens sooner, great, but I think all parties, if we do this, want to do it well and want to do it right.”

Potentially more revenue for the athletic department is not driving the decision, Larsen said. It’s also questionable how much revenue it would generate anyway, considering alcohol sales are likely to be cut off after the third quarter. Concession stand lines and bathroom availability could also be factors in limiting sales.

Fargodome expansion talk in the past has included the need for more bathrooms and concession space. The dome’s alcohol license is for any type of alcohol, but Larsen believes NDSU would restrict it to beer and products like hard seltzers.

“I think time will tell,” Larsen said of potential revenue. “The dome, and I’m sure they would tell you this, for all the other events they do, football is just really unique. It’s different. It’s one of those things I don’t think you know until you do it, but I would say this: (revenue) was not the primary motivator. It was more from the standpoint as we looked at everything. Certainly if there is a revenue impact that would be great, but that wasn’t our focus.”

The Fargodome sells alcohol at many other events like concerts and trade shows.

“They are very well prepared for it, they understand the challenges in terms of points of sale,” Larsen said. “Those are all things that if we move forward we need to figure out. We need to make sure safety and security and all those things are in place to make sure we’re able to serve the customer and fan base in a safe way.”

NDSU started serving beer and wine at basketball games and wrestling events at the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex in 2019. Larsen said there have been no issues. He also talked with every MVFC athletic director on alcohol sales at football games and got pretty much the same response.

“That was part of this process, too,” Larsen said. “We wanted to benchmark and see what everybody else in our competitive leagues were doing, what they weren’t doing, but also the potential issues and concerns. I think on all of their campuses it’s been handled really well, so there have been very few, if any issues.”

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