SBJ/December 1 - 7, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Cold game requires ingenuity from concessionaires

Western Food Services of Edmonton established an unofficial world record of boiling 660,000 fluid ounces of water for hot drinks during the first outdoor game in NHL history at Commonwealth Stadium, joked Alvin Shandro, the company CEO.

On what turned out to be the coldest day of the year so far in western Canada, the concessionaire got creative in preparing to keep more than 57,000 hardy souls warm with hot chocolate and coffee spiked with Bailey's Irish Cream.

Shandro said the food and beverage per cap was between $10 and $11. Those numbers may have been 25 percent higher had more beer been sold. "That was disappointing. We had our usual army of beer hawkers. They substituted in buying hot drinks. It may have been $13 to $14 if it was a much warmer day."

It wasn't, with a game-time temperature of minus-1 Fahrenheit.

There was considerably more alcohol consumed by 4,000 people in the tented and indoor premium dining areas serviced by Northlands Park, said Arlindo Gomes, food service manager. The 2,400 Rexall Place suite holders, sitting on bleachers in front of a two-tiered tent, accounted for a $60 per cap.

Shandro said a few of his employees with engineering backgrounds researched what had turned into an issue of being able to maintain enormous amounts of liquid at a tepid level. "Our job was to heat 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water over a seven- to eight-hour period [that included an NHL alumni game]. This stadium was not designed for that," he said.

"We set up a unique type of heating station, using insulated milk tanks to keep the water from freezing. We hooked up a series of state-of-the-art propane heating units in four locations designed to warm things up to 500,000 BTUs."

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