“It was good to have zero incidents out of the gate,” Donati said. “By and large, beer sales went really well. They probably went better than I had even hoped.”
Selling beer ranked as the most talked about change to TCU’s game-day environment going into the season, as it went hand-in-hand with eliminating the popular in-and-out policy.
Donati said most fans have been supportive of the decision and it’s helped the school draw in new fans. The Star-Telegram talked to multiple fans before the opener who were attending their first game at the stadium.
“If you look at a giant scoreboard, I’d say 90% of our fans are ecstatic that we’re selling beer,” Donati said. “I’d say 8% either didn’t want it or were disappointed with in-and-out going away, and probably 2% that just don’t think alcohol should be at football games.
“A lot of these changes are to enhance the game-day experience of the current fans and also attract new fans. We need to be very intentional on those efforts. We’ve got to fight to keep that place full and make sure it’s a home-field advantage.”
It’s a small sample size, but Donati feels the early indication is the crowd following halftime was better.
TCU had seen a number of fans lingering in the parking lots early into the second half because of the in-and-out policy in recent years, creating a duller atmosphere to start the second half as well as empty stands on TV.
“After halftime there were significantly more fans in the stands,” Donati said.
Other game-day enhancements received positive feedback, too, from the convenience stores in the concourses to the new video board to the sing-a-long song during the game.
It wasn’t all perfect. Donati used the coaching cliché that there’s always room for improvement. Among the areas to be addressed are adding a second gate for students to enter the stadium.
With the east-side expansion project still in the midst of construction, TCU had only one student gate for the opener.
“We have potential to have a really good student crowd,” Donati said. “I hate the fact they had to wait in line. You have a mad bull rush at the last minute, of course there’s going to be lines, but they deserve better. We’ve sharpened our pencils to make that better.”
All in all, though, Game 1 provided an encouraging sign for Donati and his staff.