Booze and baseball the perfect mix for UA and taxpayers
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It turns out, serving booze at college baseball games poured in much needed revenue for the University of Arizona's athletic program. As 9 On Your Side first reported last August, the city kicked out the Tucson Toros so the Wildcats could replace spring training and play its entire season at Hi-Corbett field. Today, taxpayers are also toasting to an economic victory.
The Wildcats played a total of 35 home games at Hi-Corbett Field this year.
Greg Byrne, University of Arizona Athletic Director, credits the new home with sparking a renewed interest in the Wildcats baseball program beyond just students.
"It's a place that our community very much identifies with," said Byrne.
Byrne points to the season finale as proof. The Wildcats ended the regular season with a three-game series against rival Arizona State.
The three game series averaged about 5,000 fans. It was the largest weekend attendance since 1992.
"We had $98,000 in ticket revenue that weekend and you look at our ticket prices its a very affordable way for families to come and watch baseball," said Byrne.
But the sentiments of baseball goes way beyond peanuts and hotdogs.
The move to Hi-Corbett and being allowed to sell beer generated new revenue to keep the UA's baseball program afloat.
Byrne said selling alcohol was not a bad thing.
"There were a couple of issues during the season but very minimal and it's something that our fans handled appropriately which is good," said Byrne.
As for reporting a return on investment for taxpayers?
Byrne said the UA has paid the city $329,000 including shared revenue from beer sales. It's revenue the city began losing out on when Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies broke its contract to move its Spring Training operations to Phoenix in 2010.
Plus, not yet calculated? The added economic boost in sales tax revenues from hotels, restaurants and car rentals.
"So there's been some money given back to the city through this," said Byrne. "On top of that, the facility is getting used and not just sitting there so I think that's a real positive when it comes to any facility."
Overall, the Arizona Wildcats had one their best seasons in years. The Wildcats won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and hosted a regional for the 2012 College World Series.
This weekend, the Wildcats will welcome St John's for a best-of-three game series in the Super Regionals. That means players and fans from New York will be in Tucson to spend more money at local restaurants and hotels.
However, the NCAA does not allow beer sales during post-season games.