Whitman weighs in on beer sales at Illini games


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — A trial run of general public beer sales at an Illinois baseball game in May was a glimpse of what could be at all Illini sporting events someday but athletic director Josh Whitman says don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

“We have a lot of big issues on the burner right now and I want to tackle those in order,” Whitman said. “Maybe at some point, we’ll get around to the idea of beer in a broader context.”

Whitman says the school sold about 1,000 beers in a fenced off area during the May 4th baseball game against Ohio State, it was all part of the team’s annual Bleacher Bum BBQ promotion. The game marked the first time alcohol has ever been served at Illinois Field.

“The opportunity to buy beer, for some people, was one of the reasons they chose to come to the ballpark on that particular night,” Whitman said. “We’re taking a look at what that experience was like and I wouldn’t be surprised to repeat it again with baseball or potentially with softball next spring. But I don’t see us, in the short term, expanding it beyond those sports.”

A 12-15 person task force, led by Whitman, is looking at the fan experience for not just baseball, but all Illini sporting events. Alcohol has been available for purchase at Illinois football and basketball games for years but only in premium seating areas, such as suites. There are currently four Big Ten schools that sell beer to the general public: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota and Maryland.

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