1) This is the third column of a new series, a series that might make Merritt Paulson angry, but will more likely make him howl with laughter. In this series, I’ll tell you what I’d do if, one, I owned the Timbers/Thorns, and two, I was absurdly rich. Not Jeff Bezos-rich, but richer than Merritt Paulson. Rich enough that the team wasn’t my main source of income, but was more of a hobby. Rich enough that I didn’t need the team to make a profit, I just needed them to break even.
First week, we talked about TriMet. Second week, we talked about food. This week, we’ll talk about drinks.
2) This week’s idea: the drinks at Providence Park aren’t terrible. The problem is, they’re absurdly, impossibly, deal-breakingly overpriced. What’s a beer going for these days? $11? $11.50? I’m really not sure, because I haven’t bought a beer at the park in two or three years. The price just got too high. This clearly needs fixing, so the first thing I’m gonna do when I become imaginary-owner is lower prices. The second thing? Make everything local.
3) The details: under my plan, if you want to sell beer, wine, or liquor at Timbers/Thorns games, you need to be headquartered within 25 miles of the park. Widmer Brothers? You’re still allowed. Coors Light? You’re out. Every other local brewer/winemaker/distiller, no matter how small? Congratulations, you can have counter space somewhere in the park, right next to all those food carts we talked about last week.
I imagine that if Merritt Paulson reads this, he’ll immediately say that the team already offers a lot of local beers, which is somewhat true. Widmer Brothers is available, plus some other local beers and ciders here and there, particularly at the Double Post. I applaud the team for this. My plan, however, would take it much further, with cheap local beers available at every vending area.
How do I lower prices? I tell the breweries they can charge $1 more than they charge at bars. That $1 goes to the club, everything else goes to the brewery. Based on what my local pub is charging, I figure prices at the park will be roughly $8 or $9 for a 20 oz beer. That’s less money for more beer. And it’ll be good beer, too.
Oh, and for all the folks who prefer Coors and Bud Light and stuff like that, we’ll just get one of the local breweries to make a copy of it. They could do this, right? Make something that looks, smells, and tastes like Coors Light? They could call it “Classic American Light Beer” or something. Make it really cheap and it might be a big hit.
Question: do we have any local companies who make soft drinks? Local versions of Coke and Pepsi and whatnot? And can they sell ‘em cheap? If not, we might have to continue selling the same big multinational conglomerate soft drinks. (Not that you’ll ever hear me complain about pouring Mountain Dew into my face hole.)
4) The positives: Top positive? We’d have awesome beer.
Second positive? Fans could actually afford to buy one. Hell, buy two. Buy three! You don’t have to drive home. Your ticket’s a day pass on TriMet, remember?
Third positive? I think we’d actually make more money. Yeah, it’d be less per drink, but we’d sell twice as many.
Fourth positive? Just like with the food carts, the money would be going to local small businesses. Yes, Widmer Brothers isn’t quite a small business anymore, but they’re smaller than Coors. They’re smaller than Anheuser-Busch. And Gigantic, Old Town, Zoiglhaus, and Occidental? They’re definitely small businesses. Let’s give ‘em our money.
Fifth positive? From a complexity standpoint, this would probably be easier than last week’s food cart idea, in that the breweries/wineries/distilleries wouldn’t have to bring in that much equipment. Just a few kegs and a couple people to man their counter. If they’re feeling ambitious, maybe someone to walk around the park with a mini-keg-backpack and a bunch of plastic cups, selling to people in the stands.
5) The potential negatives: Well, there might be a lot more drunk people. Is that a negative? I can’t decide.
A more obvious negative here is money. I sounded all confident up above when I said the team would make more money by selling more beers, but is that actually true? Would selling two or three times as many beers make up for the profit on each one being less? Since I don’t have access to the team’s accounting books, I really can’t say. Another thing I don’t know: are sales really suffering? I mean, I know I’ve stopped buying their overpriced beers, but maybe plenty of other people still do. Maybe every time the team raises prices, they don’t actually lose that many buyers.
Another possible negative: maybe local breweries wouldn’t want to do this. Maybe my requiring them to only charge $1 more than they do at their pub, then immediately taking that $1 from them is a bad deal. Maybe they need a bit more profit or it wouldn’t be worth the trouble for them. (Though I guess since, in this imaginary scenario, I’m super-rich, maybe I could just let them keep the dollar. Imaginary me only needs the team to break even, after all.)
6) In the real world, where Merritt Paulson still owns the team, could this actually happen? No, I don’t see this happening. For starters, I think MLS probably has a deal with Coors that requires teams to sell it in their stadium. Secondly, I bet the team makes a bunch of money from drink sales. Why else would they charge so damn much? They must know they’ve got a captive audience and that we’re gonna buy beer, so why not wring every dollar they can from us? (To be clear, I don’t know this, I just suspect it.)
If drinks are a real cash cow for the team, no way are they going to change anything. Still, it’s a cool idea, and if I were owner, I’d make it happen.
What do you think? Bad idea? Good idea, but slightly flawed? What flaws do you spot? Gimme some ideas to fix them. Let’s see if we can make this happen – in our imaginary world, at least.