“I’d say 95 percent has been very, very positive,” Donati said. “Our fans are really appreciative that we’ve tried to find ways to improve their experience. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback through email, Twitter, Facebook … overall it’s extremely positive thus far.”
The No. 1 complaint, though, has centered on TCU eliminating its popular in-and-out policy. Fans are no longer allowed to re-enter the stadium once they’ve left.
Donati spoke with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to clear up a few misconceptions on these topics:
This was not a money grab by TCU
One reader wrote on the Star-Telegram’s Facebook page that, “They don’t care about the true fan, they care about the money.”
“Money was not a factor,” Donati said. “We anticipate the net revenue we do earn from this to be insignificant and negligible in the big picture.”
TCU has sold beer at baseball games since 2018, approximately 35 games, and the gross revenue from those sales are less than $100,000. The net revenue for the school from that would be less than half.
Football games have significantly higher attendance than baseball games, but this is not expected to be a huge money maker for the athletic department. Beers are expected to be available for $7 at football games (and $5 during pre-game “happy hour” inside the stadium from when gates open two hours before until 30 minutes prior to kickoff).
That’s cheaper than most DFW stadiums, including AT&T Stadium.
It was necessary to eliminate the in-and-out policy
Fans have expressed their disappointment in this development with one posting on a message board at the popular KillerFrogs.com that, “They screw us hard on the in and out. Why is this a good thing again?”
Donati said no stadium in the country that sells beer has an in-and-out policy, and it’s for safety and liability reasons. Exceptions will be made for medical reasons.
“This was something necessary that had to come hand-in-hand with beer sales,” Donati said. “I’m not trying to ruin your tailgate. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to ensure that our tailgaters get their money’s worth. We do give them a lot of time to experience their tailgate.”
TCU opens the parking lots six hours before game time, and fans must exit the lots three hours after the game concludes. Donati said the university has yet to discuss possibly adding additional time on the front, or backend for tailgaters.
Alcohol-related incidents actually go down in stadiums that sell beer
Based on studies, Donati said, alcohol-related incidents actually go down in stadiums that sell beer. TCU wants its games to be enjoyable for every fan, and will have the same procedures in place for drunk or out of control fans.
With beer being available in the stadium, fans may not feel as obligated to drink as many beers before the game or slam drinks down during a brief window at halftime.
“This actually makes us able to control some of the binge drinking, which was a very significant factor for us,” Donati said. “We like to provide as safe a game-day experience as possible. Part of this is designed to curb binge drinking.”
As stated, Donati has been pleased with the feedback he’s received by the majority of fans.
Even though some fans are disappointed the in-and-out policy is going away, one of the benefits should be a better atmosphere when the football team starts the second half.
In theory, instead of lingering at their tailgates, fans will be inside the stadium cheering on the team. TCU wants to continue building a home-field advantage in Fort Worth, and coach Gary Patterson ranks among the most supportive of this change.
“I owe it to coach Patterson and our football program to find ways to improve support,” Donati said. “Something that will come from this is a better crowd after halftime, which is a crucial part of the game.
“That’s one of the byproducts of selling beer that has the potential to be very helpful to the team.”
Donati understands that fans have the option to return to their tailgates at halftime regardless, and simply not come back to the game.
But, Donati said, “We hope that our fans choose to do otherwise and support the program. At some point, we really need to rely on our fans to do the right thing and support our team. Is it possible they leave? Sure, I understand. But it’s important that our fans support the program and we feel the game-day enhancements we’re making will make it even more likely.”
Most fans on social media agreed that the attendance following halftime is underwhelming and needed to improve.
Selling beer is the signature “enhancement” Donati and his team has rolled out this month in leading into the season opener against Arkansas- Pine Bluff on Aug. 31.
It’s been a positive at baseball games, and that’s the goal for football games. Donati said the department has yet to discuss selling beer for basketball games at Schollmaier Arena, but it’s something they’d consider implementing if it made sense.
In the end, Donati is doing what he feels is best for TCU and growing the fan base. His decisions aren’t going to make everyone happy, of course, as people tend to resist change.
As one KillerFrogs.com post read, “They are going to serve crappy beer. Mark my words. So the tailgating gets screwed and we are stuck baking in the sun for halftime and forced to drink crappy beer. This is the worst.”
Most fans differed from that viewpoint.
“If you are someone who buys football tickets then it’s not unreasonable for TCU or any other school/organization to assume that you’re OK spending the length of the game inside of the stadium,” one user wrote.
That’s the mindset Donati and TCU is taking with the game-day enhancements. Everything from selling beer to the new video board shows how committed TCU is at providing a top-notch football experience.
“I think all of these enhancements send a message that we’re serious about football, we’re serious about the game-day experience,” Donati said.