Indiana and Nebraska Basketball Players Warming Up
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska to Introduce Pilot Program for Alcohol Sales at Pinnacle Bank Arena

September 22, 2022

During its February meeting, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents reversed course on an alcohol ban that had been in place at Husker athletic events since 1999. The vote was unanimous, and it also meant that Pinnacle Bank Arena would serve alcohol at the Big Ten wrestling championship in early March.

On a Sports Nightly appearance in late March, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts shared some insight on how the alcohol sales went, saying that “much of what we anticipated on the revenue side came to fruition.” The tournament bought in approximately $350,000 gross sales, according to Alberts.

Six months later, an amendment to allow for alcohol sales at Pinnacle Bank Arena for Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball games will be up for a vote at the Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 30. It’s expected to pass, as least from how Alberts, President Ted Carter and Chancellor Ronnie Green spoke about it on Thursday.

If their suspicions are true, Pinnacle Bank Arena will become the first venue at Nebraska that will test alcohol sales for Husker athletic events. The decision to do so will serve as a “pilot program” for the next two years and will be evaluated at the end of next season. Nebraska will get 10% of the net revenue from alcohol sales (estimated at approximately $100,000 total), while the City of Lincoln will keep the other 90%.

For now, this does not include any other Nebraska venues—like Haymarket Park—but that doesn’t mean it won’t be addressed at a later time. The discussion has opened up the conversation around concessions as a whole at Nebraska too, as well as what it means for fans in attendance.

“It’s the experience of our fans,” Alberts said. “I mean, we’re gonna look at things like concessions. We’ve sort of had this internal concession vision. Do we outsource concessions? These are all questions that we have no agenda behind but I think it’s a real opportunity for us to do that.

“But we would never even consider alcohol sales at (Memorial Stadium) until you had the infrastructure in place. You know, the reason why we’re talking about Pinnacle Bank Arena is it’s pretty simple.”

That simplicity stems from Tom Lorenz, the general manager of Pinnacle Bank Arena. Alberts pointed to his experience with the operation around selling alcohol—and its handling of underage drinking and other concerns‚ as well as Pinnacle Bank Arena’s liquor license. Pinnacle Bank Arena has already encountered and handled all of these issues at concerts and other events, which makes it the perfect place to pilot a program for Nebraska.

As for Haymarket Park, the timetable is not as clear but it’s possible that a similar pilot program could take place there in the future. The key is that Haymarket Park has a much different contract with Nebraska than the contract with Pinnacle Bank Arena (and there are three parties involved in that contract, versus only two between Nebraska and PBA). That has to be sorted out first.

“The difference with Haymarket Park is we have an existing operating agreement that was put in place prior to consideration of the university selling alcohol,” Alberts said. “I’m not interested in rethinking what that agreement looks like.”

That doesn’t mean the conversations won’t continue, especially as agreements come up for renewal and negotiation.

Changes are coming to Nebraska—that includes updates to Memorial Stadium that one day might open the door to more concession options and alcohol sales—but it won’t happen overnight. For now, Nebraska is focused on its two-year pilot program at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

If the Board of Regents approve the pilot program, Husker fans could see alcohol very soon when the men’s and women’s teams tip off their 2022-23 seasons.

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