Friday, September 1, 2017

KU Athletics to offer Free State beer at sporting events — for a very limited number of fans

Kansas fans watch the Jayhawk football team on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas fans watch the Jayhawk football team on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.


Kansas Athletics has inked a deal with Lawrence’s own Free State Brewing Co. that will bring some of the brand’s most popular craft beers to KU sporting events.

Beginning this fall, those with access to premium seating and hospitality areas at KU Athletics facilities will be able to enjoy complimentary Free State brews with their game. The perk is available only through membership in the Williams Education Fund, which raises money to provide scholarships for KU student-athletes. You also have to have your game ticket in hand, of course.

The new partnership will include Free State favorites such as Copperhead Pale Ale and Octoberfest.

“We’ve always been asked for some type of craft and draft IPA-type beverage in our hospitality areas, and now we feel like we’re able to provide the best option in the Lawrence area right here in our backyard,” said Matt Baty, who leads the Williams Education Fund. “It’s a brand we’re very proud of.”

KU Athletics announced the new partnership with Free State and Standard Beverage Corp. earlier this week, along with the announcement that KU Athletics would maintain its existing deal with Midwest Distributors Co. to feature MillerCoors products in premium seating and hospitality areas.

Bringing aboard a “premium” brand like Free State is one piece of a larger KU Athletics strategy to enhance the fan experience at Memorial Stadium, Baty said.

Starting this season, ticket-holding Williams Education Fund members can purchase a membership to Memorial Stadium’s new Field Goal Club, located just past the north end zone. The area is restricted to fans 21 and up, for obvious reasons. In addition to beer, wine and water, the Field Goal Club will also serve a limited a la carte menu, including nonalcoholic bottled beverages, from the Salty Iguana and Chick-fil-A.

Membership costs $400 per person, with a purchase limit equal to the number of season tickets held, up to six memberships. While new security measures bar fans from bringing seatbacks to all KU ticketed sporting events, Field Goal Club members will have access to their own first-come, first-served bleacher area complete with Jayhawk seatbacks, among other amenities.

There were still some open spots in the club as of Friday morning, Baty said.

“Once you get out and you’re in the stadium, you see the improvements that we’ve made to the game day experience for that price point of $400 — I think people are going to jump all over it,” he said.

Other premium seating areas include the Ward Family Scholarship Suites, the Touchdown Club, the Suite Club (added last year) and the brand-new End Zone Cabana Suites. Unlike the Field Goal Club, none of these require special membership beyond the Williams Fund and a game ticket.

As for expanding booze access at sporting events to a broader segment of KU fans, Baty said KU Athletics has “no desire,” at least not anytime soon. For now, he and other KU Athletics leaders are focusing on the future, specifically renovations to the aging Memorial Stadium that will likely include an emphasis on premium elements like the Field Goal Club.

“As the future unfolds and we’re talking about stadium renovations and what we’ll be doing in the future, donor entertainment, season tickets and hospitality areas are going to be a special feature in our renovation plans,” Baty said.

This season, which kicks off with Saturday evening’s game against Southeast Missouri State, will be something of an experiment for KU Athletics.

“We want to understand where we’re at now and really own it and provide an unbelievable experience to our season ticket holders and Williams Fund members,” Baty said, “and own that first before we look at expansion.”


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