Turning Sports Fans into Foodies
With sports stadiums being replaced at a faster rate than ever, the new stadiums are being made to generate revenue far beyond ticket sales. With entertainment options like playgrounds, ziplining, and rock climbing, these new entertainment destinations are seeking to become a draw for the whole family, and many stadiums are improving their food programs as a part of that effort.
Building Ballpark Menus
Yankee Stadium has been recently renovated, a project that included the addition of several new food options. Those include Mighty Quinn’s BBQ and Lobel’s, where customers can watch a butcher carve meat as it is ordered. The stadium now also has gathering spots that include drink rails and tables, making eating easier while socializing. The gourmet options also include Melissa’s Farmers Market, which offers fruits, vegetables, and salads to health-conscious fans.
Wrigley Field, home of the current World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, has also added some impressive food options. A new, nearly-9,000-square-foot kitchen allowed menus across the park to be expanded to include new hot dogs and sandwiches, as well as craft cocktails. The menu will also include contributions from Food Network star Jeff Mauro, such as Pig Candy (bacon bites coated in brown sugar) and a buffalo chicken sandwich. Of course, the famous Chicago dog is still offered, as is fan-favorite Old Style beer.
A short Red Line train ride south, the home of the White Sox has a new name, Guaranteed Rate Field, as well as some new food items to impress fans with. A 16-inch brisket mac and cheese sandwich has been added to the menu, as has a chocolate kebab, chocolate carved off a cylinder of it and placed in a pancake, much like gyro meat is carved and stuffed in a pita. Chinese food options have also been added, and a bar called the Craft Kave will offer an impressive 75 beer options.
In October, the Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger announced Miller Park would undergo an $18 million food and beverage program overhaul. The improvements will include more points of sale to speed up service and a bar that will serve craft beers from across Wisconsin.
The Oakland Athletics are searching for a location for a new stadium, but in the meantime Oakland Alameda Coliseum is taking some steps to improve its foodservice. Between $600,000 and $700,000 was spent on improving internal food sales between seasons, but the bigger news for fans is the gathering of local food trucks that will make an appearance during each game in the new “Champions Pavilion.” That facility will also have a video board, so fans can keep track of the game while eating.
The Atlanta Braves opened the new SunTrust Park this year, where the focus will be on regional menu items. Southern recipes including North Carolina whole-hog barbecue, Nashville hot chicken, and fried pork chops will be found throughout the ballpark, with many ingredients coming from local farms and gardens. For those looking for international fare, there’s no shortage, with vendors around the park offering Asian, Italian, and Mexican options.
Beyond the Ballparks
Baseball stadiums may be seeing more action this time of year, but they don’t have the monopoly on food improvements. Last season, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars hired Executive Chef Sean Kinoshita, resulting in options like a seared tuna lettuce wrap and ceviche. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, new home of the Atlanta Falcons, will offer hot dogs and soda for $2 each, and beer for $5, ridiculously low prices at a professional sports venue that team owners hope will draw in more budget-minded fans.
The Tennessee Titans made stadium hospitality history when a court decided in April the team could fire foodservice operator Aramark only three years into a 10-year contract. About a week later, the Titans announced a new partnership with Legends Hospitality and Levy Restaurants, leaving only a short time for organizing foodservice before the beginning of the 2017 season. Still, team officials are hopeful improvements are possible that will make fans forget the issues with Aramark.