The “fan-friendly” concessions prices movement has hit college football.
Texas announced this month it would slash game-day concession prices at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on items such as hot dogs (from $5 to $4), popcorn (from $4.50 to $3) and fountain sodas (from $5 to $3).
Professional sports franchises, starting with tenants of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, experimented with reduced prices for stadium snacks during the 2017 sports calendar to great success.
At Falcons’ games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season, the volume of concessions sales at kickoff matched full-game sales from the 2016 season, team President Rich McKay said in a May interview. Fans spent 16 percent more on concessions at 2017 Falcons games than they did in 2016.
Other professional teams, including the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens and Atlanta Hawks, have cut food prices as well.
Texas also will host a five-hour pregame street party outside the stadium, called “Bevo Boulevard” in honor of the school’s mascot, that will include live entertainment and happy hour prices on beer and wine.
Attendance at Longhorn football games has dropped as the team struggles to return to national prominence. DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium seats more than 100,000 spectators, but the 2017 season saw an average attendance of 92,778, down five percent from 2016.
“That is heresy in Texas,” said Nick Watanabe, assistant professor of sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina. “So I think this is a kind of way to reverse that trend, to make it affordable for fans to come out.”
Texas athletics officials say they’re competing with the same elements as professional sports teams — your comfy couch and food from your fridge — to get fans into stadium seats. And they’re working with the same value proposition, Watanabe said, to make Longhorn football games feel more affordable.
Ticket prices to college football games are generally so expensive that knocking a few bucks off the original cost isn’t enough to change consumer behavior. But food prices are low enough that cutting them by a couple dollars could lead a consumer to swallow the cost of tickets, knowing a meal won’t be all that pricey.
“We want to make it reasonable for families and our students to come out and cheer on our teams,” Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte said. “That was the number one priority in doing that.”
Let’s say a family of four goes to a Texas game and each member eats a hot dog and drinks a soda. Let’s throw in an order of nachos because someone got hungry in the second half.
Under the old price system, that would be $45. With the new prices, it would be $32.
Maybe the $13 saved pays for stadium parking.
“We’re asking fans to spend their discretionary income to support our programs and attend our events, so reducing prices on concessions, providing entertainment, making it an event, that’s all a big part of our efforts to get fans to campus and into the stadium,” Del Conte said. “It’s all about making our campus the place to be on game day and to create the best atmosphere in the country.”
If Texas has success with reduced concessions pricing, Watanabe said, look for it to spread quickly through the rest of college sports. UT’s athletic department, according to USA Today, generated the most revenue of any college athletic department in the country last year.
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