SBJ/June 12 - 18, 2006/Facilities

Ovations gets first NFL account, winning job in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Jaguars think that Ovations Food Services, a company with only one other big league sports account, is the right firm to help them grow their concessions business at Alltel Stadium.

Tampa-based Ovations, a Comcast-Spectacor subsidiary, signed a 10-year contract. Centerplate had been the concessions, retail and premium dining vendor at Alltel Stadium since the Jaguars started playing in 1995. Ovations’ other big league client is the Rose Garden in Portland, home to the NBA Trail Blazers.

Ovations Food Services signed a 10-year deal to
handle concessions at Alltel Stadium.
The Jaguars acquired the right from the city of Jacksonville this year to control the food operation year-round and keep all the revenue. The facility generates more than $10 million annually in gross concessions income, said Bill Prescott, the team’s CFO.

“Ovations is based here in Florida and we think they’re going to deliver a new level of enthusiasm and excitement in the building,” Prescott said.

Ovations has pledged to increase per caps 15 percent to $12 a head by building more ventilated permanent and portable stands, which allows the concessionaire to cook a wider variety of grilled and fried foods, said Ken Young, company president.

Young has worked in concessions for more than 30 years, and Ovations has hired industry veterans Doug Drewes and Charles Lawrence, both former Centerplate employees, and Tom Marchetto, formerly of Aramark. Ovations principals Steve Gregosky and Todd Wickner worked on the Jaguars’ proposal.

Nearly all of Ovations’ sports accounts are in the minor leagues and colleges, and the company wants to expand its big league roster. Ovations is competing for the food contract at new Yankee Stadium, and wants to prove to other NFL teams through its work for the Jaguars that it can operate at the highest level, Young said.

“He’s picked up a very senior team … and with Comcast’s money behind them, they’re loaded for bear,” said Bill Caruso, a food service consultant.

As part of the stadium’s food makeover, Levy Restaurants will now operate the 90 suites and 11,000 club seats in addition to its existing deal to manage the south end zone’s 38,000-square-foot Bud Zone bar and 712-seat Terrace Suite.

XP Events, a Denver-based firm that operates retail stores at two NBA arenas and one MLB facility, signed a 10-year deal to sell merchandise at Alltel Stadium.

KNIGHTED: The Charlotte Knights selected HOK Sport and local architect Odell Associates to design the team’s $35 million Class AAA downtown ballpark and Barton Malow to build it. The team hopes to open its new facility in 2008 pending city approval of the site, part of a proposed land swap.

Knights owners Don Beaver and Bill Allen picked HOK/Odell over L. Robert Kimball and Associates/DLR Group, a tandem that included designers that had helped HOK plan PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home. Beaver and Allen are Pirates minority investors.

HOK’s Bruce Miller and Odell’s Richard Shulby are the project leaders. Odell hired Bill Caruso to consult on the ballpark’s food areas after he helped plan the concessions operation at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

QUAD CITY: Sears Centre will have four minor league sports tenants when the 11,000-seat arena opens this fall in the northwest suburban Chicago town of Hoffman Estates. The Major Indoor Soccer League’s Chicago Storm is moving from UIC Pavilion in Chicago to the new arena, said Steve Hyman, the new facility’s president. The team was negotiating contract terms last week, Storm spokesman Brian Bauer said.

The Storm joins indoor football, hockey and lacrosse teams at Sears Centre. And which team gets the prime weekend dates?

“Whoever’s bringing in the most people,” Hyman said. “I’m a mercenary.”

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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