Alcohol is buzzing Thompson-Boling Arena before first drink is sold

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is already seeing positive impact with selling alcohol at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The venue will begin selling alcohol for the first time Saturday at an Alice Cooper Concert, but the event itself is evidence of its economic potential.

RELATED: UT days away from selling alcohol, other Knoxville venue says beer sales not an added problem

Jeff Maples, Senior Associate Vice-Chancellor for Finance and Administration said Friday the concert wouldn’t be possible without incorporating alcohol sales at the venue.

He said the promoter for the Alice Cooper concert signed on after the legislation passed allowing public colleges to sell alcohol at their venues, championed by State Senator Becky Duncan Massey.

They’re billing Saturday as a test run for selling, but really expect little-to-no issues with alcohol itself.

The point, according to Maples, is to learn the best way to handle logistics moving forward.

Alcohol sales preparations

Friday, WATE 6 On Your Side sent crews inside the concourse area to see the kiosks. Each of them, covered with signs warning about things like underage consumption and shut off times for selling.

Maples doesn’t have any concern about alcohol consumption-related trouble, in fact, he said they plan to continue selling alcohol at events at Thompson-Boling, including a WWE event scheduled for September.

“It happens every day at restaurants, at bars, again I think some of the limits we’ve got here will really not lend itself to over-consumption,” Maples said.

A successful first night, according to Maples, would include a positive experience from fans, being able to handle the demand, keeping the empty cans cleaned up, and no long lines.

They won’t be issuing wristbands, Maples said, because he said they can easily be removed. They’ll ask for ID with each purchase, no matter a customer’s age.

The Arena can hold 21,000 people.

It’s conveniently sitting in driving distance to hubs like Chattanooga, the Tri-Cities, and Nashville.

Venue location, and now alcohol sales, ideal for future acts

Three major interstates also intersect Knoxville. That’s a few reasons recruiters seek out the venue.

Arena managers believe the ability to offer up proceeds from alcohol sales is another incentive to attract them here.

“There are other acts we’re talking to down the road that are now very much interested in coming to Knoxville now because we offer this,” he said.

Maples believes the change could help bring four to five more acts to the venue every year, more attendance, and more revenue for the university.

They do receive a portion of proceeds from their vendor, Aramark.

Right now, Maples said, a guest at the arena spends an average of $2-4. By adding an alcohol option, he said estimates show the needle moves to $10-12 per guest.

Beer sales at football games?

Whether or not football fans will be able to buy a beer at the first football game is still unknown.

The University has been working toward a plan of action since the SEC lifted its longtime ban.

“A lot will depend on how this goes tonight. We want to see logistically how this works, if there are any issues, I think it will be a good test run for us,” Maples said.

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