Gossage Gives Final Answer On Beer Sales At Texas
May 23, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
And that, says speedway general manager Eddie Gossage, is his final answer.
"I believe this will end months of speculation on what the speedway was 'really planning' to do," Gossage said. "Despite the fact that all along we’ve said we would listen to our fans, many still thought we would deny them the right to bring beer in their coolers. The decision not to sell beer means we will forgo a substantial profit, but it’s the right thing to do."
As a result of a Feb. 5 vote, the sale and on-site consumption of alcohol is possible in a previously dry part of Denton County where the speedway is located. Since that time, the speedway has solicited input from the fans regarding the sale of beer in the form of e-mails, letters, phone calls. Thousands of Permanent Seat License (PSL) and season ticket holders responded through surveys in a recent Speedway Today newsletter. National Service Research of Fort Worth also conducted formal fan surveys during the April NASCAR DIRECTV 500 race week.
What the research showed, was that fans felt strongly about their ability to bring beer in their coolers, with 73% in favor, even though slightly less than 50% of fans actually bring alcohol to the races.
"I thought that statistic was quite interesting," said Gossage. "I assumed, as I’m sure many did, that the majority of those bringing coolers brought beer. Apparently, that isn’t the case. What is certain, however, is that even those who don’t bring beer feel it’s the fan’s right to do so if they choose."
The speedway had previously announced an interim plan rejecting the idea of widespread beer sales for the DIRECTV 500 weekend that, by Texas law, would have prohibited fans from bringing beer in their coolers. Instead, four controlled "beer gardens" were permitted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) which gave fans the choice to bring with or buy on site.
"We lost money on the beer gardens in April," said Gossage. "In part, perhaps, because many fans didn’t know they were there, or maybe fans are just reluctant to leave their seats during the race. That’s obviously one reason coolers are so popular. We may try one beer garden for the Casino Magic 500 race week and see how it goes."
One thing Gossage is sure about, is that the speedway is doing right by the fans in making this decision. A recent poll conducted by the Peter Harris Research Group, indicates the number one reason for lost fans at professional sporting events was the cost. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they were less likely to attend a sporting event today compared to one year ago because of the cost.
"General managers of professional sports need to start listening to the fans," said Gossage. "We can’t afford to lose fans these days, there are too many other options to occupy their time.
"We don’t charge for parking – that’s about $3-4 million we pass up. We’ve always managed to find a sponsor to partner with us on our qualifying days to get free tickets into the hands of fans – that’s another $2 million or so. Now, passing up on beer sales – that’s yet another $3 million a year profit we’ll forgo. Eight or nine million dollars a year is a lot of money for a business to, in essence, refuse, but it’s the right thing to do for our fans. They pay enough as it is to enjoy professional sports. We want them to keep coming back."
Gossage added that The Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, being a separate entity from the main 1.5-mile speedway, will be treated as such and a decision on beer sales for events to be held there will be decided on a case-by-case basis with the individual event promoter.