SBJ/September 8 - 14, 2003/Facilities

Fans thirst for fountains in new stadiums

The Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles are having to answer to fans and local media because they didn't put public water fountains in their new stadiums.

The Eagles are answering critics by spending an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 to install 22 permanent water fountains on their concourses, 12 of which were to be operational for tonight's regular-season home opener, said Scott Jenkins, vice president of stadium operations.

In Green Bay, officials said they didn't put water fountains on the concourse because of severe weather conditions in the fall and winter. The public has access to water fountains in the enclosed atrium, a focal point of the renovation that includes the Packers Hall of Fame.

More fountains may be installed in the atrium, but Ted Eisenreich, director of facility operations, said he did not know if additional units would be retrofitted on the concourse.

Both facilities, built for the NFL but targeting themselves as multiple-use venues, have fountains on their private club levels. Courtesy cups of water are available by request at first aid stations at Lambeau Field and Lincoln Financial Field and at 44 concession stands in Green Bay.

Conspiracy theorists may point to the absence of fountains as a way for the teams and concessionaires to sell more bottles of water, which cost $3.50 at Lincoln Financial Field and $3 at Lambeau Field. Theoretically, that could translate to greater revenue for the teams, now operating stadiums on their own with considerable financial investments in their buildings.

As Aramark President Liza Cartmell recently pointed out, bottled water now ranks among the best-selling concession items. "Everybody's walking around with bottles of water," she said. "That's been a huge development within the business."

The third new NFL facility, renovated Soldier Field in Chicago, has plenty of free-flowing water for Bears fans.

"One of the first things we got up and running were the water fountains to keep the construction workers well hydrated," said spokesman Barnaby Dinges. "We've got Lake Michigan water. We invite everybody to come down and drink it by the gallon."

The Eagles said the lack of fountains at Lincoln Financial Field was an oversight. Project director Patrick Winters, of NBBJ Sports Entertainment and Architecture in Los Angeles, wouldn't comment.

Said Dave Koger, general manager of Turner Sports Group, the general contractor: "We just build them. We don't design them."

Jenkins was previously with the Milwaukee Brewers as general manager of Miller Park, an NBBJ-designed stadium that does have public water fountains. He said bubblers should have been installed from the beginning in Philadelphia.

"I don't know what happened because I wasn't here when it was planned," he said. "Obviously, it's harder to do after the fact. We have to tear into the walls and tie into the plumbing system, then clean things up."

The Packers' Eisenreich said the fountains on the old Lambeau Field concourse weren't utilized that much during the eight-game regular season. The result was "constantly freezing pipes that would break" as early as mid-October.

Stu Zadra, project director for Hammes Co., the Lambeau Field renovation consultant, said, "The fact is that there are things that aren't very practical in the harsh Northern climate. Some people don't understand the need to winterize, when you have to drain and shut down a system."

Eisenreich said the concession stand courtesy cup policy initially took effect last season during the second phase of construction. Volunteer groups working Levy Restaurants locations were once again told to provide that convenience after reported inconsistencies with the policy.

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