With a week and a half left until Washington State University’s first football game, the question of how much booze will be available at Martin Stadium is still unanswered.
Officials, however, hope to get the nay or OK today from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on whether or not the university can expand its alcohol sales at the stadium.
“We think it’s going to enhance the experience for our fans,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said Monday during a media session at WSU. “And it’s going to enhance our revenue picture for Washington State athletics.”
Since his arrival at WSU early this summer, Schulz has taken an interest in the university’s financial health, in particular that of the athletic program, which ended the 2015 fiscal year with a $13.2 million deficit. That followed a 2014 deficit of $13.7 million, according to its 2015 operating revenues and expenses report.
While the proposed alcohol expansion will not make up the difference for the department, it could make a small dent, Schulz said.
“This is a piece of it, but it’s not the whole piece,” he said. “This is, on the high side, $1 million a year in additional revenue and we have a $13 million a year gap.”
Schulz said he will present a plan to bring the department’s budget back in the black over the next several years to the WSU Board of Regents in September.
“We’ve been working on that over the last couple of months. We’ve got a whole punch of different things we’re going to be proposing and talking about and implementing as soon as we can,” Schulz said.
Schulz said several other universities, including others in the Pac-12, have begun selling beer during games with few problems, as vendors can control how much alcohol is sold and cut off those who have overindulged. While Schulz said he expects the plan to be a success, he admitted one of its aspects may not be popular.
If the proposal is approved, a new no re-entry policy will also be put into place, bringing about a change for Cougar fans who like to split time between the stadium and the parking lot.
“The re-entry policy … is always controversial,” he said, but it has a purpose.
“A lot of it has to do with going into the game, being there for a while then going into the parking lot and tailgating … heavily for a little while then electing to come back into the stadium,” he said. “We need an intimidating full house for the entire game and we think this is the right step to take, coupled with beer sales inside.”
Schulz also shared a quick preview of his primary goal for the university in 2016-17 and beyond, which will be unveiled later this week.
Atop the list is seeing WSU recognized as a top-25 public research university by 2030.
“Our Drive to 25 will really describe and talk about the conversations we’re going to be having in the community and university about being recognized as a top-25 public research university by the year 2030,” Schulz said. “There are some things we already do that are pretty outstanding. The question is, how do we elevate some of the other parts of campus? What does a top-25 university look like? What does a top-25 undergraduate experience look like? That’s probably the biggest single thing I’ll be looking at over the next year.”