Win, or lose, we drink (and eat) to the Lobos - Albuquerque Journal

Win, or lose, we drink (and eat) to the Lobos

If you enjoy going to live sporting events, there’s a good chance you also enjoy a beer with the game.

Whether to just help relax with friends, celebrate a win, or even to help soften the pain of a bad game, beer has long been a staple of college football and basketball.

It’s no different for Lobo fans, at least not since the fall of 2016 when alcohol sales in general admission seating areas were first approved at the University of New Mexico.

According to documents reviewed via a public records request by the Journal, UNM Athletics’ last fiscal year (covering the 2021-22 sports seasons) brought in $401,586 in beer and alcohol sales at home football and men’s and women’s basketball games.

And the beer of choice last year in University Stadium and the Pit was Dos Equis, with just north of 10,000 cans sold during Lobo home football games, the New Mexico Bowl and basketball games in the Pit, pulling in about $103,000 in sales.

Bud Light (5,482 cans sold, $49,743 in sales) and locally brewed Mass Ascension IPA (5,342 cans sold, $53,704) of Ex Novo were the other two beers that rounded out the top sellers, with a significant gap after that.

Draft beer sales aren’t as high for a variety of reasons, especially in the Pit. Adopting the same line of thinking as at other venues over recent years, UNM has moved away from wanting to pour drinks because, simply put, it takes too long. Extra time for each order leads to long lines. Long lines lead to upset customers.

Now, the policy is to crack open the beer or drink (if it has alcohol in it) and hand it to the customer.

But there are still draft beer options in some spots at University Stadium and the Pit, mostly in premium seating areas and suites, leading to about $60,000 in sales last fiscal year.

UNM keeps 45% of all alcohol sales, per the latest amendment to the eight-year contract it entered into in 2016 with Levy Premium Foodservice.

There were $283,953 in alcohol sales at University Stadium in 2021 (6 home games and the New Mexico Bowl) and $117,633 at the Pit (18 men’s home games and 18 women’s home games), though the basketball season was played with both a mask mandate and vaccination requirement in place that affected attendance and, potentially, drinking habits. There were no such requirements in place for the outdoor football games.

In 2016, UNM reported $143,553 in total alcohol revenue.

Alcohol being sold at college venues is no longer the exception across the country as it was ja decade ago. Most now sell alcohol as a way to help enhance revenue, and at least in UNM’s case, there doesn’t seem to have been any problems arising from alcohol sales that weren’t already occurring.

Lobo fan Phil Lomax carries beer for him and a friend during New Mexico’s Sept. 3 home and season opener vs. Maine at University Stadium. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

“We think our crowd is very responsible with their alcohol intake,” said Dave Williams, UNM’s deputy athletic director, said. “Certainly, there’s always been issues that we had to deal with on a year-to-year basis that occasionally come up, but what we often find is that issues arising from alcohol intake … (are) because of what they’ve done in that tailgate spots or parking lots before the game. But we watch for them. We want a family-friendly atmosphere.”

Fans at Lobo sporting events that do see such problems, of course, can alert any police officer or usher or text (505) 396-2UNM (2866) to report an issue.

Alcohol, of course, wasn’t the only thing sold at games.

Soft drinks and bottled water brought in plenty of revenue in the drink category as well. And while there are plenty of more refined options if you’re hungry, the ballpark staples of popcorn, hot dogs and nachos were the three top selling food items.

As for the beer sales, UNM has made it an important part of its game day operations – both because of the customer demand and revenue opportunities.

UNM has a partnership with Premier Distributing, which distributes, among other things, Anheuser-Busch beers, though it does allow for other alcohol products to be sold at events, which opens the door for some local breweries to sell their products.

This year, there are special cherry-red, Lobo-branded products of Bud Light being sold in stores across the state – both in 12-ounce glass bottles and 16-ounce aluminum cans shaped like bottles. They are also available at Lobo games.

“We get visibility. We get the overall brand collaboration with the strongest beer brand in the country,” Williams said. “And they get the same with the Lobos. We think that the Lobo brand is as strong as any in New Mexico. And they get the cross-collaboration with us. And we get the same with them. So it’s a great relationship that we get to promote each other’s business.”

Premier Distributmg also distributes some of the top-selling non-beer alcoholic beverages at UNM games, such as a wide variety of what are normally considered mixed drinks but in a can like margaritas, vodka mules and mai tais, which all sold well according to records.

This is a different approach than NMSU’s, which has hit heavily the branded beer and alcohol market with specific Aggie-related products from which they get a cut in sales. It’s simply a strategic decision to stick instead with an overall partnership with Premier Distributing, Williams said.

“We could always allow someone to license a beer and get 12% of every sale, but we are very cognitive of our larger deal with a distributor like Premier,” Williams said. “And we will never enter an agreement that would undercut our major sponsor.”

WOBBLE ON: To check in on how NMSU did on alcohol sales last year, CLICK HERE.

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