Athletics Department Spotlight: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee is brewing up an exciting new attraction at Floyd Stadium to enhance the fan experience.

Middle Tennessee is brewing up an exciting new attraction at Floyd Stadium this football season to enhance the fan experience for Blue Raider faithful.

The Blue Raider Beer Garden will debut at field level in the south end zone, in partnership with Hop Springs Beer Park, Steel Barrel Brewery and the MTSU Fermentation Sciences program. Entrance to the field level area is free with a ticket to the game but you must be 21 or over.

The garden, which will start serving when stadium gates open, will feature different Steel Barrel craft beers for purchase, as well as grilled food and tables with umbrellas where fans can enjoy the game. There will also be an area for corn hole, giant jenga and other games for fans to enjoy.

Also, students in MTSU’s Fermentation Science program will provide ideas and input to Hop Springs for the brewery to create small-batch brews that will only be served in the beer garden. Each beer will have a different name with a theme related to the week’s opponent.

Students in MTSU’s Fermentation Science program will provide ideas and input for the Blue Raider Beer Garden.

“We are hopeful that this project will both enhance our fan experience at Floyd Stadium and provide additional exposure for our Fermentation Science program in our College of Basic and Applied Sciences,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.

The creation of the beer garden was done with the fans in mind. After a successful first year of selling alcohol at sporting events, the athletics department decided to take it to the next level with the help of the university’s fermentation science program.

“We are thrilled to partner with our fermentation science program to provide another element to providing an unparalleled game experience for our fans,” MT Director of Athletics Chris Massaro said. “We visualize this area to be a festival/street fair-type area in the south end zone for all of our fans over 21 years old to enjoy as they watch great C-USA football. We hope this unique offering will help grow attendance and provide a better game environment for our fans while perfectly showcasing yet another partnership athletics has with academics.”

The new beer garden isn’t the first time Middle Tennessee has partnered with Hop Springs and Steel Barrel. The university and brewery, which opened its doors in 2018, entered a unique agreement last year to house the new MTSU Fermentation Sciences program at the facility, located just off John Bragg Highway. They celebrated a grand opening ribbon-cutting event on May 23, 2019.

Having the chance to partner with the MT athletics department and brewery on the beer garden project is yet another exciting opportunity for the program, according to MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Dr. Bud Fischer.

“The fermentation science program housed in the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences is excited to team up with Steel Barrel and the MT athletics department to offer fans a unique engagement experience at football games,” he said. “The new beer garden will enhance our fermentation science academic program by providing our students the hands-on opportunity to produce and showcase a unique craft beer for each home football game. The opportunity also offers students and faculty in the program the occasion to interact and educate the public on all aspects of the program and the fermentation industry while strengthening the program’s ties to the industry and the community.”

Middle Tennessee’s Fermentation Sciences Laboratory at Hop Springs was created through a partnership with Steel Barrel, whose brewery is housed at Hop Springs, and Life is Brewing LLC. It features sensory and teaching labs for students to get hands-on learning about brewing.

“This has never been done before with a fermentation science program, and it’s all come about because of the opportunity for the experience at MT football games to be more fun,” said Mark Jones, MT alumnus, co-owner of Hop Springs and Steel Barrel and CEO of Life is Brewing LLC. “The benefits are unmeasurable. You have people who are getting hands-on experience, and their hearts are in the business. We actually just hired the first graduate of fermentation sciences full-time, so we’re pretty pumped up about all of it.