Regent Jim Pillen will vote for alcohol sales at PBA, approves of new multimedia rights deal

Sept. 29, 2022, 6 a.m. ·

Jim Pillen sits at a University of Nebraska Regents meeting in April 2021
Jim Pillen was elected to the Board of Regents first in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. He served as the board's chairman in 2020. (Photo by Dylan Widger)

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Northeast Nebraska regent Jim Pillen said he will vote in support of two major proposals for University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s athletic department that are up for consideration by the university system’s governing board this Friday.

Pillen, also the Republican nominee in the state’s governor’s race, said Tuesday afternoon he will support the two-year pilot program to allow alcohol sales for men’s and women’s basketball games starting this season at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

“I'm a vote in favor of that,” he said.

If all goes well, the Nebraska Board of Regents could opt for expansion of sales to locations like Memorial Stadium. A Garth Brooks concert last year gave Husker fans a glimpse of what beer sales could look like in the football stadium. Fan surveys also conclude most support the idea, but that’s a different conversation for another day, Pillen said.

Also a UNL football player back in the late 1970s, Pillen said the two-year trial was a conservative approach to see if the sales work at Husker athletic events. He also said specialists that he and other regents consulted, like security experts and police chiefs, said there’s less binge drinking at games when fans have access to alcohol at games.

“There's been alcohol sales in Baxter Arena on UNO’s campus for years since Baxter has been built,” Pillen said. “This is a very, very conservative plan.”

If the Regents pass the pilot program, the Lincoln City Council would also need to approve the change since Pinnacle Bank Arena is owned by the city. Under the current proposal, the city would get 90% of the net revenue.

The regents will also consider a new multimedia rights deal for broadcasting rights of UNL sports. The deal, announced by the athletic department last week, will be a 15-year, $300 million agreement with Playfly, a company that also holds agreements with Michigan State and Maryland athletics.

"Nebraska's partnership with Playfly will leverage the company's multimedia rights expertise and tap into its expansive suite of marketing and media solutions to further grow the Huskers brand regionally, nationally and globally," UNL athletics said in a news release.

In March 2021, the UNL athletic department brought the broadcasting in house after it spent 16 years with another company, Learfield IMG. But in Pillen's eyes, bring the broadcasting rights in-house didn’t quite solve the problems.

“We have so many Nebraskans across the country, and we didn't have the ability to attract all in that market,” Pillen said.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents will meet on the University of Nebraska at Kearney's campus on Friday morning at 9 a.m. CT.